A Little on the Side: Condiment Awareness

by Lisa Rhea

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Every home has these standard condiments, but how you use them can make a big difference in your calorie intake.

A salad needs dressing. Fries need ketchup. Sandwiches need mayo. A baked potato needs butter.

Our everyday eating habits have made condiments a necessity, and with today’s post, I hope to shed a light on just how impactful those sides and sauces can be on your waistline. Call it my Condiment Awareness campaign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love ketchup, mustard and mayo just as much as the next person and am certainly not advocating eradicating them from your diet, but it’s important to know just how many calories they are adding to your meals. Wondering why your healthy eating isn’t leading to weight loss? The answer might just be in those little extras that pack a big calorie bang.

Size Matters

Pick up your favorite salad dressing bottle. Flip it over and look at the calories on the label. Chances are they are somewhere in the 100-150 range – per 2 tablespoons. Now think about how much you actually use.

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Be sure to read the labels and know your serving sizes.

Two tablespoons is less than one of those tiny ramekins at the restaurant, which barely covers a quarter of your salad. Most likely you’re using two or three times that much – turning your 500 calorie salad into nearly double that.

Keep looking at your favorite toppings and sauces. Again and again, you’ll find that they contain nearly as much or more calories than the food that you’re complimenting them with.

A cup of green beans is around 30 calories. The tablespoon of butter you just topped them with is 100 calories.

An english muffin is around 100 calories. The peanut butter and jelly you added? Easily 200 plus calories depending on how heavy your knife is.

l could go on and on. So the calories rack up, but who wants to eat a dry potato? You’re not going to munch on salad with no dressing and seriously, lemon juice or just vinegar is NOT a viable substitution. And fries without ketchup, well, that is just blasphemy.

So What Now?

The answer, as always, is moderation. And that begins with awareness.

Here are my tips to safe saucing:

  • Read the label. Know how many calories are in the condiment you are about to use.
  • Put it on the side. Instead of pouring the dressing or sauce directly on the food, leave it off to the side and dip your food in it.
  • Look for alternatives that actually taste good. For example, there are dressings made with a yogurt base that taste delicious and have a quarter of the calories.
  • Don’t overcook your food. The drier your meat, the more barbecue sauce you’re going to pour on. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you take you food off the grill at the optimal temperature.
  • Use more seasoning. Salt, pepper and different seasoning blends can add just as much flavor, without the added calories.
  • For sandwiches and salads – load up on veggies that add flavor and moisture, such as tomatoes and pickles.
  • When in doubt, measure it out. If you have goals you’re trying to meet, the best way to get there is to know what you’re consuming.
  • Take advantage of low-calorie condiments, such as mustard, hot sauce, salsa and buffalo sauce. Consider using fat-free greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

With these tips in mind, I hope you can enjoy your condiments responsibly and with knowledge of how they can impact your fit life. 

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