Learn to be crafty with condiments by avoiding the hidden sodium lurking in your favorite prepared toppings by making your own lower-sodium condiments. By: Serena Ball, MS, RD
September 06, 2011
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Make Your Own Lower-Sodium Condiments
Sauces and spreads can enhance the flavor, but also the sodium content of many healthful foods. Be sure to choose prepared condiments carefully (aim to stay below 100 mg of sodium per serving) or better yet, create your own sauces to add a personal touch to the final dish. Use fresh herbs, aromatic spices, or piquant peppers to help swap out salt-laden condiments. Here are some tricks for making sauces savory without lots of added salt.
2 of 10Photo: Randy Mayor
Skip the mayo with 90 to 125 mg sodium per tablespoon and try creamy, spreadable Greek yogurt for just 10 to15 mg sodium per tablespoon. An infinite number of herbs and spices can create fantastic flavor spreads like garlic-basil, black pepper-chive, or lime-cilantro. For a tangy zip, add a splash of lemon juice to the calcium-rich spread. These flavor combos not only work as a tasty sandwich topping but they double as a creamy dip. One tablespoon of the Yogurt-Tahini Spread on this veggie sandwich has just 12 mg sodium.
Tomatoes, peppers, onions, and fresh herbs are bountiful during the summer and even with a dash of salt, the sodium content of fresh salsa is still far below the 230 mg per serving (usually 2 tablespoons) found in jarred salsa. If tomatoes aren’t in season, canned no-salt-added tomatoes can be spiced up with fresh cilantro, lime, and jalapeño for a short-cut homemade dip. A hearty half-cup of this fresh veggie salsa has just 125 mg sodium.
Sodium content varies widely among mustard varieties: A teaspoon of plain yellow mustard has only about 55 mg sodium while the Dijon variety contains 120 mg, so be sure to compare labels (find out our taste test winners for the best prepared Dijon mustard). Or, whip up your own to use for picnics and tailgates or in recipes like this crunchy coleslaw. Homemade mustard has only 37 mg sodium per teaspoon and is easy to make: Soak 4 tablespoons ground mustard in 1/3 cup water overnight and then mix in 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
A 3-ounce serving of plain, cooked shrimp is packed with 19 grams of powerful protein, only 100 calories and 140 mg of sodium (if the shrimp is not pre-treated with salt water). Don’t douse fresh shrimp with sodium-laden cocktail sauce (which packs 600 to 700 mg per ¼ cup serving), but instead make a simple vinegar and shallot-based sauce known as a mignonette for a tart, fresh accompaniment to seafood. This Pink Peppercorn Mignonette recipe has only 1 mg sodium.
While building a backyard barbeque pit may be out of your comfort zone, prepping your own sauce is simple and cuts back on sodium, as most bottled sauces have 300 to 500 mg sodium per 2 tablespoon serving. Plus, you can make the barbeque sauce as sweet or spicy as desired. 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.
The sodium content in store-bought relishes varies greatly. Dill pickle relish averages about 450 mg sodium per tablespoon while some brands of sweet bell pepper relish have around 60 mg sodium per tablespoon. Since not all relish bottles stack up the same, be sure to compare their nutrition labels before purchasing. Or you can make your own low-sodium relish like this Spiced Pepper Relish with just 30 mg sodium per tablespoon or try Spicy Cucumber Relish for 30 mg sodium per tablespoon.
Bottled salad dressings can boost the flavor of salad greens and crudités, but they can also pour on the sodium at roughly 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.
It goes without saying that ketchup (about 160 mg sodium per tablespoon) usually accompanies salty fries or hot dogs; so to decrease the sodium content of the entire meal, dilute this topping by blending a little prepared ketchup with pureed no-salt-added canned tomatoes. Or make your own version like this Heirloom Tomato Ketchup for just 79 mg sodium per tablespoon. And yes, making your own ketchup is almost as easy as flipping open the squeeze bottle.