Convenience doesn’t always have to be unhealthy, and these delish condiments are here to prove it.
Store-bought condiments tend to get a bad rap for obvious reasons—many are filled with sugar, sodium, artificial flavors and preservatives, among other not-so-healthy ingredients—but on the flip side, they really come in handy when you’re crunched for time or tired of your go-to homemade flavors.
“I believe a good condiment can turn any meal from boring to delicious,” says New York-based registered dietitian Casey Seiden, RD. “But I do recommend shoppers be choosy when it comes to selecting ones that are best for their health.”
For starters, check out the ingredients label and choose condiments with a short list of ingredients that you’re familiar with. “If you wouldn’t have an ingredient listed in your kitchen and could make the sauce at home without it, then it might be a good idea to ditch it,” says Seiden.
Going with condiments that are lower in sugar and salt is also important. Since people tend to use more than the average 1 tablespoon serving size of sauces and dressings, Seiden recommends making sure they contain no more than 3-5 grams of sugar per serving, and that sodium be kept at 5 percent daily value or lower.
In terms of fat composition, she says, look for no trans fats, minimal saturated fats, and a mix of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. “Ingredients that would indicate quality fats would be avocado oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, or walnut oil,” says Seiden. “Avoid palm oils and partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oils.”
So which store-bought condiments deserve a spot in your kitchen? Here, experts offer their top picks as a place to start:
1. True Made Foods No Added Sugar Vegetable Ketchup
True Made’s vegetable ketchup contains no added sugar and no refined or artificial sweeteners—it’s naturally sweetened with just apple and vegetable puree, “but has that zing that you expect from ketchup,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition and wellness expert and author of Eating in Color.
2. Eden Organic Brown Mustard
While classic mustard isn’t the unhealthiest condiment of the bunch—it’s low in fat and cholesterol and contains no added sugar—this particular mustard is organic and only contains three ingredients: Canadian whole brown organic mustard seed, organic apple cider vinegar with mother (raw enzymes and friendly bacteria), and sea salt, says Nicole Schillinger-Vogler, RD, Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and member of Weavers Way’s Neighborhood Nutrition Team. Plus, its sodium content per serving (one teaspoon) is within reason, clocking in at 3 percent daily value.
3. Woodstock Organic Sweet Relish
All ingredients that make up this relish are organic and non-GMO project verified, says Vogler. It also contains slightly fewer calories, as well as less sodium and sugar per serving than other varieties of sweet relish.
4. Primal Kitchen Mayo with Avocado Oil
Traditional soybean-oil based and avocado-oil based mayos can have close to the same amount of total fat, but the use of avocado oil increases the amount of monounsaturated fats (the heart-healthy kind), and decreases the amount of omega-6 fatty acids—which, when consumed in excess, can contribute to inflammation, says Seiden. Some avocado-based mayonnaise may also be lower in calories, so if that’s an important factor for you, be sure to check the label to compare before purchasing.
5. Tessemae’s Salad Dressings
These salad dressings are usually found in the refrigerator section of supermarkets, as they don’t use preservatives to keep their product fresh. They also contain healthy fats, like olive oil and high oleic sunflower oil. “High oleic sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds, but is higher in monounsaturated fat and lower in omega-6 fatty acids compared to standard sunflower oil,” says Denver-based registered dietitian Jennifer Scheinman, RDN. Plus, Tessemae’s dressings are dairy-free and very low in added sugar.
6. Primal Kitchen Classic BBQ Sauce
“Many brands of barbecue sauce use high fructose corn syrup and can have up to 16 grams of sugar in a single serving (only 2 tablespoons),” says Scheinman. And don’t be fooled by brands made with cleaner ingredients like honey or 100 percent juice—these can still be loaded with sugar, so always check the label to be sure. Primal Kitchen’s Classic BBQ Sauce, for example, contains only 2 grams of sugar per serving.
7. Bragg Liquid Aminos
A healthier alternative to soy sauce or tamari and naturally gluten-free, liquid aminos are a liquid protein concentrate derived from soybeans (in this case, non-GMO soybeans) with 16 naturally occurring essential and non-essential amino acids, says Vogler, which help the vitamins and minerals we digest perform their duties throughout the body. The salty taste comes straight from the soybeans that are used—but although the sodium is naturally occurring, you should still moderate your intake to keep from going overboard.
8. Green Mountain Gringo Salsa
Besides being crazy-delicious, these salsas only contain fresh, organic, whole food ingredients that you can actually pronounce—and instead of gums and other stabilizers, this brand uses fresh spices and vinegar to preserve freshness, says Seiden.
9. Lantana Foods Hummus
This hummus brand uses non-GMO, recognizable, whole-food ingredients, and even their fruit and dessert varieties are low in sodium and added sugar, says Seiden. “They also have zero saturated fat and don’t use artificial ingredients to preserve freshness compared to other popular brands,” she says.
10. JUST Foods Awesome Sauce
Traditional tartar sauce combines mayo or aioli with chopped dill pickle, capers, and chopped onion. “It’s pretty high in sodium and has about 2 grams of saturated fat per serving,” says Roth, who recommends switching to the JUST Foods version. Besides being tangy and delicious, it contains no saturated fat, cholesterol, and is lower in sodium compared to other store-bought varieties. Bonus: It’s vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO, so everyone can enjoy it.
11. Artisana Raw Tahini Sesame Seed Butter
When a condiment lists only one ingredient—and that ingredient is a powerhouse seed—you can rest assured it’s a healthy choice, says Seiden. “Tahini provides a solid amount of protein and unsaturated fats, as well as vitamin E and magnesium, which are important for cell functioning and repair,” she adds. You can drizzle it on everything from yogurt bowls to roasted veggies without fear.