Photo: Jennifer Causey

These condiments taste just as amazing, if not better, than store-bought versions and they’re all lower-sodium with less calories than your favorites.

Zee Krstic
June 29, 2017

It’s hard enough as is to eliminate extra calories and high-sodium ingredients when hosting a backyard barbecue or lavish holiday spread, but it gets even more difficult when your optional toppings aren't healthy choices. 

Making burgers with grass-fed lean beef? Skewering organic lean chicken? Whipping up a batch of green-bean fries instead of deep-fried potatoes? You’re well on your way to pleasing everyone at your event while still keeping their health in mind.

But just when you think you’re safe, someone slathers on a thick coating of generic store-brand ketchup atop a glob of mayonnaise on a sandwich – and every calorie you heroically reduced is suddenly back again.

Yes, it only takes a few sloshes of bottled salad dressing to ruin the brimming nutritional value of a plate of greens, and this is only too true for the classic American line-up of condiments as well – ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish.

Those four standard condiments can do a number on your otherwise healthy meal at varying degrees – yellow mustard is one of the safest options calorie wise, with an average of 1-5 calories per tablespoon and less than 160 mg of salt, but some Dijon varieties can run you up to 340 mg of sodium per teaspoon. But ketchup can easily cost you 20 calories and 190 mg of salt per tablespoon, and we all know that most of us can easily eat more than a single tablespoon.

And mayonnaise is the silent killer here – a whopping 90 calories on average and a range of anywhere between 90 and 125 mg of sodium within just a single tablespoon.

But don’t spend hours in the aisles of your supermarket counting calories, carbs, or sodium levels on the hundreds of condiment offerings. You can make your own alternatives to these condiments and feel confident that your healthy spread of dishes won’t be trumped by any toppings that can destroy the nutrition of a dish when used in abundance.

Your guests will be practically glazing their hot dogs, burgers and other fun picnic and cookout staples with these condiments, and you can feel better knowing it’s a much cleaner, lighter spread than anything from the store.  

1) Swap Ketchup for Salsa

You can harvest the summer's best tomatoes, as well as fresh herbs and peppers, to create a clean and crisp salsa that is much healthier than mountains of ketchup. Fresh salsa is less salty than the store-bought variety, which clocks in at around 230 mg of salt per tablespoon. A hearty half-cup of this tangy vegetable salsa only has 125 mg sodium total. Or if you are really dead set on keeping your substitute as similar as possible, make your own ketchup with this Heirloom Tomato Ketchup recipe for just 79 mg sodium per tablespoon. It's almost just as easy as flipping open the squeeze bottle, plus you can say goodbye to the high-caloric variations.

2) Try Your Hand At Mustard

Whip up your own variation of mustard with the help of this recipe, which incorporates mustard into a crunchy coleslaw. Homemade mustard contains no more than 100 mg of sodium per tablespoon and it's super easy to make. You can soak 1/4 cup of ground mustard in a 1/3 cup of water overnight before mixing in 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt.

3) Don't Forget The Relish

Store-bought relishes are always all over the place when it comes to calorie count and sodium levels, but you can expect around 450 mg sodium per tablespoon for dill pickle varieties and 60 mg of salt for bell pepper mixes. Opt out of any salty mix by making this Spiced Pepper Relish with only 30 mg of salt per tablespoon. 

4) But Do Forget Mayo

You substitute mayo with a 10 to 15 mg sodium per tablespoon of spreadable Greek yogurt, while avoiding the nearly 100 calories in a single tablespoon of mayo. There's so many herbs and spices to boost Greek yogurt into flavor-rich spreads such as garlic-basil, black pepper-chive, or lime-cilantro. For a tangy zip, add a splash of lemon juice to the calcium-rich spread.  One tablespoon of our Yogurt-Tahini Spread on this veggie sandwich has just 12 mg sodium. 

5) Dress Your Salad All By Yourself

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

It's not a salad until your greens are naturally boosted by a lovely salad dressing, but bottled salad dressings can add more than just flavor to your mix: some dressings pack on the sodium at more than 350 mg per serving. A simple homemade vinaigrette is just as quick and convenient as the bottled and has almost half the sodium with a tangy taste that’s deliciously versatile. 

6) Go Light With the BBQ 

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Most bottled BBQ sauces have 300 to 500 mg sodium per 2 tablespoons and they don't allow you to make the sauce as sweet or spicy as your heart desires. This Tangy Coffee Barbecue Sauce takes just 20 minutes and has only 24 mg sodium for 2½ tablespoons. If you’re looking for a sweet, thick sauce, try Memphis Barbecue Sauce for 260 mg sodium per 2 tablespoons.

7) Don't Miss Other Condiments with this Miso Aioli Dip

And if you're in the mood to wow your cookout crowd with something unexpected and healthy, than look no further than this Miso Aioli Dip. This hearty sauce contains 90 calories per serving and remains relatively sodium-friendly with only 138 mg per tablespoon. 

8) The Healthiest Cheese Sauce You'll Ever Eat

Photo: Jamie Vespa

Cooking Light's cheese sauce will definitely transform anything you plan on serving at events all year round, and you'll be shocked to hear that it will only cost you 53 calories per two tablespoons and contains just 114 mg of sodium.