Store-bought condiments aren’t typically talked about in a positive light in the wellness world. Warnings about the ketchup jar being a sneaky source of sugar and salad dressings being high in salt are whispered between the grocery store aisles, often followed by a proud proclamation of finding a recipe for a healthier, homemade version on Pinterest.
While it’s true that some condiments are high in sugar or salt—and there’s certainly nothing wrong with making your own condiments at home—it’s a sweeping generalization to assume that anything on store shelves isn’t good for you. In fact, registered dietitian Alana Kessler, RD says some are actually full of health benefits, made with herbs linked to reduce inflammation and other nutritious benefits.
The key to knowing whether a condiment is healthy or not of course comes down to reading the nutrition panel and ingredients list. (You knew that was coming, right?) That way, you know if the condiment in question is made with actual herbs or chemical copycats, and you can also eye the sugar and sodium content. (A good rule of thumb is to keep added sugar intake below 6 teaspoons or 25 grams a day and sodium intake below 3,400 milligrams a day.)
Here, Kessler shares her five favorite healthy condiments to buy, explaining why she likes each one. Keep reading for her saucy shopping list.
The best healthy condiments to buy, according to a registered dietitian
1. UNSWEETENED KETCHUP ($14.77 for two)
Kessler absolutely has ketchup in her fridge door—she just goes for an unsweetened one to nix any added sugar. When you stick to that guideline, she says it can actually be a healthy condiment. “Tomatoes have lycopene, which is an antioxidant,” she says.
2. SPICY BROWN MUSTARD ($11.60)
Veggies aren’t the only burger topping with health benefits; Kessler says mustard delivers on that front, too. “Mustard speeds up metabolism and soothes respiratory issues,” she says.
3. AVOCADO-OIL MAYONNAISE ($11.09)
We can’t talk about healthy condiments to buy without at least mentioning mayo. Kessler says an avocado oil-based one is a good bet because it ups the amount of healthy fats you’re getting, which will make your meal even more satiating.
4. NUTRITIONAL YEAST ($14.50 for a pack of two)
“If you’re vegan or don’t consume dairy, nutritional yeast is a great way to add a cheesy flavor to your food,” Kessler says. She also says that the little golden flakes contain B vitamins, which help the nutrients in foods be better absorbed in the body. In that sense, this condiment can make your healthy food even healthier.
5. LIQUID AMINOS ($12.58)
Kessler likes to add a couple tablespoons of liquid aminos to her stir-fry to give veggies, rice, and protein more flavor. “It’s a delicious, low-sodium, alternative to soy sauce,” she says, adding that liquid aminos is both soy- and gluten-free.
6. SRIRACHA ($4.99)
If you’re into spicy food like Kessler is, this is one condiment you’ll be using on repeat. Made with red jalapeno puree, red peppers, and garlic puree, it really brings the heat. While sriracha does contain sugar, a little goes a long way due to its spiciness; it’s difficult to overdo it. Kessler does offer up one caveat to this condiment saying if you suffer from acid reflux, it’s probably not the best choice for you, as spicy foods can make symptoms worse.
7. HORSERADISH ($2.79)
“Horseradish is an antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial powerhouse that has been shown to help with respiratory issues,” Kessler says. Made from the horseradish plant native to Europe and Asia, it can be used to add a kick to fish, meat, or veggie dishes. Similar to sriracha, a little goes a long way.
8. PESTO ($2.48)
If you’re cooking for one or two, buying a jar of pesto can be a more sustainable choice than making your own and not being able to use it all before it goes bad. “Pesto has tons of antioxidants and anti-microbial properties from garlic and basil,” Kessler says. “Plus, who doesn’t want to close their eyes and pretend to be eating at a cafe in Italy.” I think that’s a fantasy *everyone* could use right about now.
If you’re looking for some creative dishes to pair with your condiments, check out Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group.
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