A Guide to Choosing Healthier Condiments

A Guide to Choosing Healthier Condiments

Most of the time we think primarily about the meat entrée we are going to serve for dinner, and not about the condiments we are going to serve with it. Today, we have many different choices to suit anyone’s palate, but what about all those added ingredients in condiments? For example, there are a variety of various ketchups, mustards, mayonnaise products, and pickle relishes.Have you ever taken a good look at the label of ingredients and found out what you are really eating?

Ketchup: Has about 1-tsp. sugar per tablespoon serving of sauce or 15 calories. On an average, we should try to consume no more than 4-9 teaspoons of sugar per day. Many brands will also have high fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup, vinegar, salt (about 160 mg sodium per tablespoon) and spices, onion powder, and natural flavorings. There is not a lot of difference between all those brands of ketchup, but they will vary in price and of course taste.

The question becomes whether or not you would be able to make your own of some of these products; and the answer would be yes! Especially during the growing season, consumers could select the very best tomatoes ripe from the garden and put together with favorite vinegars, spices, and simple sugars of choice. There are not a lot of additives in ketchup so it would be very possible to put together yourself. My favorite ketchup is Heinz Tomato which boasts 57 different varieties of tomato included.

Mustard: There are many different styles and flavors of mustard products. They do contain vinegar, #1 grade mustard seeds, salt (anywhere from 35-125 mg sodium per tablespoon), spices, turmeric, paprika, garlic powder, and natural flavors. Most of these ingredients are considered from natural sources, so it is only the sodium that I would be concerned about. My favorite, French’s Classic Yellow Mustard, has 55 mg sodium per teaspoon serving. You could try to make your own mustard by finding or growing your own mustard seeds, or some local farmers markets may be selling the seeds as well.

Mayonnaise: A lot of good home kitchens have been used to making their own mayonnaise in a food blender or mixing bowl in the past 50-75 years; but today, that practice has pretty well vanished. In those days, cooks felt that you would arrive at having a very tasty product without the ingredients of the bottled products, especially all the eggs.

Today, mayonnaise is commercially made of soybean oil, whole eggs and extra egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and sugar, and several emulsifiers to keep the product room temperature stable and well blended. The sodium is 90 mg per tablespoon; and the sugar is not listed in grams as there is not a “significant source of the ingredient” in grams. This may all change with the coming of the USTA Guidelines later this year.

I would choose a product that would be low in sugar and salt, and or try my luck at making my own mayo. The home-made product will last 2-4 weeks in the refrigerator before it starts to break down. My favorite is Hellman’s Real Light mayonnaise. “Low calorie” mayonnaise is not being recommended because these products carry extra sugar and salt, and will have more additives in them to keep them stable.

Pickle Relish: There are many different pickle relishes whether they are sweet or dill. They are usually a topping for a bratwurst or a hot dog. It is not necessary for you to buy those with yellow food dye, and look for brands that contain 90 mg of sodium or less per tablespoon serving. In addition, you do not need to have a lot of added sugar as well, for sure no more than 3 gm sugar per tablespoon for a total of 15 calories per serving.

Besides the cucumber, many types of pickle relish will have added citric acid, vinegars, red and green peppers, dill and lemon juice. Many canning experts enjoy working with these recipes during the summer to see what new tastes they can come up with for the many different types of cucumbers and other ingredients. I would recommend using a small amount just because of the sugar included, as a tablespoon would provide, or make your own. Most pickle products are high in iron content. My favorite is a Vlasic Dill pickle relish.

With so many choices to make it is hard to find just the right products to include in your healthy dietary choices. It may be worthwhile for you to include other fresh ingredients as toppings for your sandwiches or hamburgers—tomato, lettuce, red onion, avocado, mushrooms, and red or green peppers. This will quickly improve the nutrition of your hot dog or burger, and contain less salt and sugar.


Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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