Limiting pre made sauces & Condiments
Sauces, spreads and condiments are often some of the unexpected culprits of high calorie foods. It is hard to imagine sushi without soysauce, toast without spreads or eating your foods plain! Sauces and condiments add flavour to our food to make it more palatable, but unfortunately a lot of them are full of fat, sugar and salt. The good news is that there are plenty of healthy ways to add flavour without these commercial sauces, and if we are educated about the contents of what we are putting on our foods we can learn to moderate how much we use, and make healthier alternatives.
Some sauces or spreads are essential to cooking our favourite meals, but others are not doing our meals any favours and are actually making them less healthy. For example take a healthy sandwich or salad topped with a white sauce or mayonnaise - just two tablespoons of mayo contains more than 20 grams of fat and more than 800 kilojoules making that sandwich or salad much less healthy. The less healthy options are usually the bottled, easy and convenient options, which contain many ingredients and are high in fat, sugar and salt. Sugar and salt preserve foods so they don’t go off, making their shelf life longer — remember the fresher the produce the better it is for you!
When you are eating foods that are quite high in sugars, fats and salt, you can lose touch with your senses, which can mean that you are unaware when you are full and because they are so ‘tasty’ they can cause you to overeat. Coat anything with some tomato or BBQ sauce and I bet it will be tasty! Think about the foods that you often overeat. Chances are they are the more processed foods high in sugar, fat and/or salt
It's important to understand how to read labels and to compare them with other products. Look at the kilojoules, fat, sugars, salt and look what ingredients they have in them — some products are better than others. Even better is to use fresh ingredients for flavour like avocado instead of mayo, use herbs and spices instead of salt or tomato/bbq sauce, squeeze fresh lemon or vinegar over your salad instead of using pre-made sauces. Use a tablespoon of olive oil and some herbs in cooking instead of using pre-made sauce. (More alternatives listed below)
Not all condiments are on the unhealthy side, read the labels and look for sauces, spreads etc. that contain less ingredients in them. Seeded mustard for example contains few ingredients, which are usually natural, and it is also not too high in kilojoules. Compare products, picking the ones that contain less kilojoules, less added sugars, and less fats and salt. There are some great brand options that don’t have added sugars and use less ingredients than others.
Overview of some common sauces and condiments:
Sweet spreads contain sugar, which doesn’t mean you need to avoid them, but it is good to be aware and to use them more sparingly.
Full of sugar, just use more sparingly
Any sweet jarred foods
Full of sugar and salt, limit your intake
Tomato / ketchup
Black bean sauce
sweet and sour sauce
Most pre-made sauces
High in fat, limit your intake
All creamy white sauces
Salt (sodium) does not contain calories, but a diet very high in salt is not healthy and is not great for heart health. No need to cut these out, but it is good to be aware of the amount of sodium in sauces and use them more sparingly, or choose ‘low / reduced sodium’ variations when possible.
High in salt, just use more sparingly
‘Light’ salad dressings / sauces
Most pre-made/bottled savoury sauces
Great healthier alternatives to all of the above
- Lemon, fresh squeezed - adds great flavour over salads/veggies or when cooking meats
- Seeded Mustard
- Other Mustards (check ingredients)
- Jarred Salsa’s (check for ingredients, or make your own)!
- Hummus (compare nutrition labels, there are some great natural ones out there)
- Vinegars, white or balsamic
- Avocado and lemon
- Fresh olive oil (high in fat so don't over use)
- Tahini for a creamy taste (high in fat so don't over use)
- Fresh jarred tomato pasta sauces – ‘Pasta sauces’ but you can use on everything to add flavour (check for products with less ingredients and no added sugar)
- Tomato passata / canned crushed tomatoes (check for added ingredients)
- 100% coconut milk (high in fat so use sparingly)
- Fresh milk, real cream (can be high in fat so use sparingly)
- Nutritional yeast, a natural cheesy taste
- Real cheeses i.e., parmesan, fetta, ricotta, cheddar (can be high in fat so use sparingly)
- Soy sauce, tamari sauce, fish sauce (high in salt so use sparingly)
- Curry powders or spice mixes (check that they are all real spice/herb ingredients)
- FRESH HERBS AND SPICES-
- Honey, maple, etc (a natural sugar, but still a sugar so use sparingly)
- Fresh jams (pick brands that use real fruit and contain less other ingredients, and use more sparingly)
- Natural nut butters, penut almond etc
My tip to you is to slowly decrease the commercial premade sauces and condiments, and to buy some fresh herbs and jarred spices- start experimenting with them in your cooking and on your meals to cut out some unnecessary calories, sugars and salts.
My favourite flavours I use most:
Garlic and fresh onion (or onion flakes)
Lemon and coriander
Parsley and lemon
Nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour
Curry powder and coconut milk for creaminess
Tamari sauce or Fish sauce for saltiness
Basil and tomato
Cinnamon or nutmeg for sweetness
In summary, pre-made sauces are okay in moderation but they contain high amounts of sugar, salt, fats, and preservatives. If you grab any pre-made sauce like your barbecue, tomato, mayonnaise, sweet chilli - and read the ingredients and the nutrition panel you will see lots of sugars, salt, maybe some fats (in creamy ones), number codes which are preservatives and chemicals. These things won’t kill you, but they are often adding unnecessary kilojoules (calories) into your food and are so easy to avoid by cooking fresh food with natural flavours, and adjusting your taste buds to like these more natural foods.