Condiments are the lazy man’s path to a tasty meal. The dullest grilled chicken is transformed with a robust and flavorful barbecue sauce, or perhaps even better, a rich and creamy peanut sauce. And what child doesn’t love ketchup on well, everything? Yet not all condiments are created equal. Traditional ketchup is full of sugar and traditional mayonnaise is loaded with unhealthful fats. Mustard, relish and soy sauce are often high in sodium.
So how should you use condiments to amplify the flavor of a meal without adding too many unwanted ingredients, sugar or salt? Start by stocking your fridge with the healthier condiments discussed below; not only are they made without unwanted ingredients, they are low in sugar. Many even provide added health benefits.
Another tip: Stick to appropriate serving sizes. I know many kids, and adults for that matter, who pour a quarter-cup of ketchup on a burger instead of the recommended serving of one tablespoon. One tablespoon of ketchup has a whopping four grams of sugar (almost as much as is in one Oreo cookie), so imagine what that ¼ cup will do to your blood sugar.
Here are alternatives to some old condiment standbys.
Tahini instead of peanut sauce
The facts: Peanut sauce can be high in sugar. Tahini at its simplest is ground sesame seeds. It has 5 grams of protein, along with calcium, iron, B vitamins and magnesium in a two-tablespoon serving, which makes it a nutrient-rich condiment.
Brands to try: Artisana, Soom, Kevala. Avoid brands with added oils, additives or sugar.
How to use: Whip into salad dressings, dips or spreads such as hummus. Drizzle onto roasted vegetables, add to smoothies for more protein, or bake into brownies and vegetable burgers.
Lower-sugar barbecue sauce
The facts: Many barbecue sauces, especially the sweet and honey-flavored ones, contain a good deal of sugar (10 to 13 grams) and sodium (280 to 350 mg) in each two-tablespoon serving, and whoever sticks to such a small serving size when it comes to the tangy yet sweet flavor of this popular condiment?
Brands to try: The New Primal barbecue Sauce is made with nutritious bone broth and has just five grams of sugar per serving and a little less sodium than traditional brands. Primal Kitchen Classic barbecue Sauce is much lower in sodium and also in sugar, with just two grams per serving.
How to use: Marinate meats, spread on a sandwich or use as a dipping sauce.
Tamari or liquid aminos instead of soy sauce
The facts: Soy sauce has gluten and is often high in sodium. Individuals allergic to soy should not consume it. Tamari is a gluten-free version of soy sauce, and the low-sodium variety tastes as good. Liquid aminos is a gluten-free, soybean-based seasoning. Coconut aminos are non-soybean option that come from the sap of a coconut tree.
Brands to try: San-J Reduced Sodium Tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, Coconut Secret Organic Coconut Aminos.
How to use: Use tamari as you would regular soy sauce. Drizzle the aminos onto sushi, roasted vegetables, salads and meats for a salty, savory note.
Kimchi or sauerkraut instead of coleslaw
The facts: Coleslaw made with mayonnaise can have a lot of fat and calories. Kimchi and sauerkraut are less caloric and, as fermented condiments, they aid in breaking down your food and helping you absorb its nutrients.
Brands to try: Hex Ferments, Mother In Law’s, Mama O’s. Washington’s Union Market houses No 1 Sons, which sells a wide variety of pickled and fermented foods.
How to use: Add a spoonful to any meal. Just a little bit will provide loads of flavor and health benefits.
Low-chemical sriracha and low-sodium harissa
The facts: Traditional sriracha and hot sauces often have sugar and chemical preservatives. Harissa can be high in sodium.
Brands to try: Weak Knees Sriracha, Sky Valley Sriracha, Mother In Law’s Chile sauces, Mina Harissa.
How to use: Season meats, eggs, seafood, sandwiches, vegetables and rice dishes. Harissa is delicious stirred into soup.
Nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese
The facts: Parmesan cheese is high in sodium (which is probably why we all like it so much!), with 780 mg in every two-ounce serving, and many people avoid or limit dairy due to its potentially inflammatory effects. Nutritional yeast — which is deactivated — earns its name, because it is full of nutrients. It is a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids; one tablespoon has 2 grams of protein. It also delivers B vitamins, zinc and selenium.
Brands to try: Bob’s Red Mill, NOW.
How to use: Instead of sprinkling grated Parmesan on a dish, try nutritional yeast and be astounded at the comparable taste. Great on salads, pasta, vegetables, baked potatoes, eggs and soups.
Other flavorful condiments to try
Sofrito: Common in traditional Spanish and Latin American cooking, sofrito is a mix of finely chopped garlic, onions, pepper and tomatoes cooked down in olive oil. It is delicious on meats, fish, shrimp and in rice dishes.
Miso: Use this fermented mix of soybeans, salt and grain (there are gluten-free options) to glaze vegetables, smear on fish, marinate meat, toss into a salad dressing, add to a burger, or mix in mayonnaise; miso gives an umami flavoring to anything.
Wasabi: Rub this Japanese horseradish paste on fish or meat before cooking, toss into salad dressings, mix into mayonnaise, or add to deviled eggs, hummus, guacamole, mashed potatoes, and of course sushi.
Pesto: Made with garlic, a leafy green such as basil or arugula, nuts such as pine nuts or walnuts, olive oil, salt and traditionally Parmesan cheese, this Italian sauce adds flavor to pasta, chicken, meats, fish, sandwiches, pizzas and veggies.
First published by The Washington Post on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.