Are you sabotaging your healthy eating efforts? Healthy eating does not need to be bland or boring. Food should be enjoyable and full of flavor.
When considering our food choices and planning our meals, we most often focus on the main components of the meal. We know to avoid processed bread products, fried foods, and sugary desserts. Condiments are an easy way to add flavor to meals. We dip fries in ketchup, spread mayo on sandwiches, add sour cream to tacos, and cover our salads in creamy dressing.
However, if not chosen thoughtfully, condiments can easily sabotage an otherwise healthy meal. Many are full of unhealthy oils and saturated fats, processed sugars, excess sodium, empty calories, as well as preservatives and other additives. Calories, in and of themselves, are not bad or harmful. Calories are needed; they give our body energy. Our food should also give us nutrients. When foods are high in calories and low in nutrients, our body works hard to digest them, yet gets very little in return. Fortunately, there are healthy alternatives that can add flavor and nutrients to your meals.
Condiments to Avoid
This classic, go-to condiment is commonly used on sandwiches, burgers, chicken salad, and coleslaw. Consisting primarily of oil, mayo is calorie dense and full of saturated fats. One tablespoon, about the amount in one packet, contains close to 100 calories, and 30% of the RDA of fat. Though we should not fear fat, too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels and lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Healthier options: plain yogurt can be used in place of mayo in tuna salad/chicken salads…. Mashed avocado, hummus and pesto are all excellent spreads for burgers and sandwiches.
A tasty dressing can really take a veggie-packed salad to the next level. Beyond salads, dressings like ranch are often used as a dipping sauce and as spreads on wraps. Most bottled dressings are full of saturated fat, sodium, and additives such as MSG. Low-fat and fat-free versions may seem like a better option, but they typically have added sugar and other flavorings. Nutritional labels can be deceiving, as the serving sizes are much smaller than what is typically used.
Healthier options: You can easily make your own salad dressing with a few simple ingredients. Use plain yogurt, mashed avocado, or tahini as a creamy base. Spices can add plenty of flavor and variety.
Often added to baked potatoes and Mexican dishes, this dairy product is full of saturated fat and extra calories. Saturated fat has been shown to raise LDL cholesterol, which may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. A two tablespoon serving adds 57 calories, up to 6 grams of fat, yet very few nutrients. Again, calories and fat should not be feared, but should offer nutrients as well.
Healthier options: Mashed avocado is full of healthy fats and nutrients. Guacamole is a great addition to tacos and baked potatoes. Yogurt, cilantro and lime make a great sauce.
Ketchup and barbecue sauce
Ketchup and barbecue sauce are frequently added to burgers and great for dipping fries. They also have a lot of added sugar. Just 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce has 100 calories and 10 grams of sugar. Ketchup comes close with 7 grams. Whether you are using it to marinate chicken breast or dipping your fries, this can add up fast.
Healthier options: You can easily make your own ketchup and barbecue sauce with a few ingredients. Begin with tomato paste, add spices, and use a natural sweetener such as agave or monk fruit.
Condiments to Consider
This classic condiment adds a lot of flavor, yet is low in calories and fat free. Combine with plain yogurt, honey and apple cider vinegar to make a healthier honey mustard to use as dipping sauce or a salad dressing.
Not only is avocado extremely versatile, it is packed full of nutrients. Mashed avocado can be added to burgers, spread on sandwiches or thinned with a little bit of water and spices to make a creamy salad dressing. Guacamole is simple to make and adds both flavor and a creamy texture to lots of dishes.
Yogurt contains monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to lower LDL and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Yogurt also contains protein and many other nutrients. Plain yogurt can be used in place of mayo when making chicken salad. It can be mixed with cilantro and lime to add to Mexican dishes. Herbs and spices added to yogurt make flavorful and versatile sauces.
Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds that makes hummus smooth and creamy. With herbs and spices, and water to thin, this paste can be transformed into salad dressings, dips, and sauces. Add onion powder, parsley, dill, and a little bit of water, and you have a healthy ranch alternative for dipping veggies. Ginger, garlic, and coconut aminos transform tahini into an Asian-inspired dressing. The possibilities are endless!
Healthy eating can be simple and delicious. Nutrition has a vital impact on health and wellness. Eating well is a gift that you give yourself. Don’t sabotage your efforts with processed sugar, saturated fat and chemical additives. Use these healthy sauces and dressings to make each day different, interesting, and delicious!