We pay so much attention to the big things that we’re eating that very often we don’t even think about what we are putting on that food. Condiments are a really wonderful thing. They can add a new dimension to a food, complete the flavor profile, or cover up an otherwise unpalatable dish…like that time I forgot I was cooking chicken. Just like they add so much to our food, these sauces and dips can add to our waistlines as well. So what should you look out for when it comes to condiments?
Many of our favorite sauces and toppings in the Standard American Diet contain a lot of sugar. Well, let me rephrase that – it might not seem like a lot in one serving as listed on the label, but, let’s face it, no one is sticking to that small serving size (new regulations yet to be enacted by the FDA will require serving sizes to be based on what people actually eat). Major sugar offenders include ketchup, barbecue sauce, and reduced and low fat salad dressings. Salad dressings in particular are sneaky because most taste savory; remember, when they take the fat out, they take out some flavor and texture that they have to make up for and they do that most frequently with sugar. Other more obvious offenders include sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, and honey mustard sauce.
Sodium is another concerning factor in many of our favorite condiments. Soy sauce is a fairly obvious one with it’s very salty taste. Ketchup is another big offender in this category. In general, Americans greatly overconsume sodium. It’s added into almost everything and then we top it with more. One tbsp of ketchup has 6% of your Daily Value of sodium in it. That may not seem like much, but, chances are, you’re eating more than one tbsp and that will be on top of salted french fries or a burger with salty cheese or salt mixed into the meat and before you know it you’ve reached your Daily Value quota in one meal.
Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats in our diet and they have horrible effects on our health. Trans fats do not occur naturally – they are manmade and our bodies do not process them like other fats. Because of this, they contribute to decreased cognitive function, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, decreased HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, increased abdominal fat, and an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes. Salad dressings are the major culprits for containing these harmful additives.
Under current FDA regulations, if a food contains less than 1/2 a gram of trans fat per serving, food manufacturers can put a label on it that says “0 G Trans Fat” so you can’t make an assessment based on that. In order to ensure you are not consuming trans fats, make sure that you read the ingredients label carefully – if you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then you will know the food contains trans fats and you should find an alternative.
So Then What Should I Eat?
My food philosophy is all about balance so I’m not going to tell you that you should never eat ketchup again – that would be impractical and…well, cruel. The only exception to this would be the condiments containing trans fats – just go out and find an alternative to those.
What I am going to recommend to you is to monitor your serving size. Literally, pull out a measuring spoon and measure out a tbsp of ketchup. If you eyeball it you will over serve yourself (obviously if there is no measuring spoon on hand then eyeball it).
Also, keep in mind that you have no control over or insight into what is in the dressings or sauces they serve you in a restaurant and those meals are frequently overdressed. To avoid an overload, always order your salad dressings and sauces on the side. You will be shocked at how much less you use and yet you’ll still get the flavor you’re looking for.
- Salad dressing replace with Olive Oil and Vinegar
- Avoid all of the sugar and trans fats by just making your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar – it is literally the healthiest thing you can put on your salad
- Ketchup/Mayonnaise replace with Mustard
- Store-bought mayonnaise replace with homemade
- Store bought mayonnaise is almost always loaded with processed oils and preservatives. You can avoid all of this by making your own. Mayonnaise is super easy to make, all you need is eggs, dijon, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a blender or whisk. Boom. Mayo.
- Soy sauce/Sweet and sour sauce replace with a drizzle of sesame oil
- It’s a different flavor but sesame oil is delicious and is a very healthy fat. Because of the high levels of unsaturated fats in it, though, it should be used as a finishing oil rather than being cooked or heated.