Mayo, Sour Cream, Ranch, Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, Oh My!
You wouldn’t dare take a bite of a hot dog without adding a little ketchup/mustard/relish, and everybody knows that hot wings are worthless without blue cheese dressing, right? But often your go-to condiments are made with unhealthy ingredients and are loaded with calories, sugar, and fat.
Condiments give flavor and a familiar taste to foods, which is why those side shelves of your fridge are stocked with at least one or two of them. Not sure about those eggs or chicken fingers? Why not add Heinz ketchup? But while it seems harmless to add a few tablespoons of sour cream, butter, cheese, and/or bacon bits to a potato, we tend to be pretty liberal in our measuring. Those few “tablespoons” can be responsible for turning a baked potato from a totally decent, mildly healthy, side dish (150 calories, 4g fiber) into an unhealthy nutrition nightmare (>600 calories, 32g fat).
Certain condiments are great for you (pepper, for example), but many toppings are loaded with unassuming calories, and are high in saturated (unhealthy) fat, sugar and salt. They also can have, like processed foods, tons of preservatives to keep ‘em from molding, so even if you haven’t used that ketchup in the past 4 months, it’ll still taste as good as the day you bought it. I know you’re on the edge of your seat, so here are the top 5 worst condiments, and some ideas for replacing their empty spot in the fridge.
This emulsion of egg yolks, soybean oil and vinegar has a high calorie count and tons of saturated fat. Although “chicken salad” sounds healthy, it’s not straight up chicken or anything close to a salad when it’s held together with globs of full-fat mayo. 1 tbsp = 100 calories, 100% from fat.
If you switch to reduced-fat mayo (and better yet, light mayo with olive oil), you’re saving half the calories and fat.
You can also try replacing mayo entirely on a sandwich with hummus, a slice of avocado, or a mix of Greek yogurt & lemon juice.
2. Sour cream
We’re talking straight up cream that’s been fermented, so adding this to nachos and cheese is kind of like adding heaping amounts of whipped cream to cheesecake. Delish, maybe, but an unnecessary high-fat and high-calorie addition to an already unhealthy dish.
If you’re eating out, I would bet you a manicure (you know you need one) it’s the full fat version, so lay off the sour cream and replace it with salsa, or at least with a healthier high fat dip like guacamole.
If you’re throwing a Mexican fiesta that doesn't resemble a Taco Bell menu, go with low-fat or fat free versions, or replace with low fat plain yogurt. Want a super high protein replacement for dips? Try 1 cup of cottage cheese + 1 tbsp white vinegar + 2 tbsp low-fat milk and blend away, and substitute for equal parts sour cream. You won’t even know the difference.
3. Ranch and Blue Cheese dressing
Ay yay yay. These “dips” are disasters. It’s like adding Caesar dressing to a salad; it basically negates anything healthy you’re doing. Ranch is made with sour cream, mayo and a few other seasonings. Blue cheese is a lovely mixture of cream, blue cheese, half and half, and mayo. Add in fried and battered chicken wings, and congrats, you’ve officially created an amazingly fatty and unhealthy dish… and a few extra hours in the gym!
There are low fat versions of both – but you could also substitute by reaching for much healthier options like hummus, black bean dip or salsa.
The king of condiments is naturally low in fat, but commercial versions are also loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup and salt. Ketchup makers (i.e. Heinz) have also pushed tomato producers to create sweeter tomatoes to decrease the use of additional sugar. Sneaky, huh! So while it’s made out of tomatoes and there may very well be some lycopene (an antioxidant) in there, it’s not the equivalent of a fresh tomato.
While 40 calories doesn’t seem like much, it’s doubtful you’re only using 2tbsp of ketchup – but if you can’t live without it, definitely start using a low sugar version if it’s an option. If you’re ready to make some changes and get rid of empty calories, replace it with fresh salsa or tomato sauce. On burgers, give a few tomato slices a shot.
5. Barbeque Sauce and Steak Sauce
If you order a lean red meat and think you’re just getting a ton of protein and iron, hold up. Before you conclude that you’re doing something great for all that muscle building and repairing post workout, know that the nutritional value of your meal depends on the condiments you may or may not be using.
Barbeque and steak sauces usually have a ketchup or tomato paste base and then more sugar and molasses are added. Unfortunately, teriyaki sauce isn’t any better – it’s made of super high sodium soy sauce and sugar.
So while those bbq ribs might be finger-lickin’ good, they’re also a simple sugar & calorie land mine. Instead, try Tabasco sauce, olive oil or go for citrusy, lower-calorie marinades.
And there ya have it! Don’t be fooled by those sauces and dips you think you don’t use very much of. Always check out the ingredients, even on the staples in your fridge, and think twice before adding them out of habit – especially when it comes to the salt shaker. But if you need some more evidence, check out the table of condiments….