Condiment Culprits

Summer is in full swing and has brought with it the three B’s: beaches, bathing suits, and barbecues.  But – in order to go to the beach – we need to squeeze into our bathing suits, and that may be hard to do after all those food-filled festivities.

While many health-conscious individuals may forgo a cheeseburger for a turkey patty, a lot of us don’t give a second thought to the sneakiest of diet busters – condiments.

It seems harmless enough to add a glob of ketchup or smear of mayo to your favorite grilled item.  But a glob here and a smear there can turn a perfectly healthy meal or side dish into a nutrition nightmare.

Many condiments are loaded with saturated fat, sugar, and extra calories.  However, there are a variety of other condiments out there that offer flavor without adding any extra bulk.  Here are some healthy, nutrient-packed replacements for common condiment culprits:

Mexican:  Sour cream is loaded with saturated fat.  Trade in the artery-clogging taco topper for some homemade guacamole for a dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.  Just beware of portion size – two tablespoons of guacamole has about the same amount of calories as sour cream.  For a lighter treat, choose a fresh salsa loaded with colorful vegetables.

  • Sour Cream (2 Tbsp):  50 calories, 3 g saturated fat
  • Guacamole (2 Tbsp):  50 calories, 0.5 g saturated fat
  • Salsa (2 Tbsp):  10 calories, 0 g saturated fat

Off the Grill:  While ketchup is a potent source of lycopene – an antioxidant correlated with reduced incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease – it may also contain high fructose corn syrup or other forms of added sugar.  To get the antioxidants without additional sugar, try a few slices of tomato and some whole grain mustard.  Thinking about substituting in some barbecue sauce or sweet relish?  Think again!  There is about one teaspoon of sugar in each tablespoon of barbecue sauce or sweet relish.

  • Ketchup (2 Tbsp):  30 calories, 7 g sugar
  • Tomato Slices (2 slices):  10 calories, 1g sugar
  • Mustard (2 Tbsp):  20 calories, 0 g sugar
  • Barbecue Sauce (2 Tbsp):  50 calories, 8 g sugar
  • Sweet Relish (2 Tbsp):  40 calories, 8 g sugar

Salads:  Whether mixed into a potato salad or hidden in the creamy dressing of a green salad, full-fat mayonnaise can add a substantial amount of fat and calories to your salad.  Substitute a reduced-fat or light mayonnaise to lighten the calorie load.  If you are looking for a more natural substitution try combining plain nonfat yogurt with a bit of mustard and vinegar to taste.  Creamy salad dressings such as ranch, blue cheese, or Caesar dressings typically use mayonnaise as their base and can have over 180 calories for a 2 Tbsp serving.  If you prefer to use a prepared salad dressing, opt for vinaigrette:  just be wary of the amount of sugar that may be added to the dressing.  Another easy, healthy option is to use olive oil and vinegar.

  • Mayonnaise (2 Tbsp):  180 calories, 3 g saturated fat
  • Light Mayonnaise (2 Tbsp):  70 calories, 1 g saturated fat
  • Plain Nonfat Yogurt (2 Tbsp):  20 calories, 0 g saturated fat
  • Ranch Dressing (2 Tbsp):  150 calories, 2 g saturated fat
  • Olive Oil and Vinegar (2 Tbsp):  140 calories, 0.5 g saturated fat
  • Store-Bought Balsamic Vinaigrette (2 Tbsp):  90 calories, 1 g saturated fat

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Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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