Navigating The Condiment Calorie Maze

By Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS

Contributor: Stephanie Wu 

Condiments can certainly be sneaky! I love sour cream on a baked potato, tartar sauce with fish and chips, and cocktail sauce with shrimp as much as the next person, but it’s important to be aware of the extra calories that sneak in under the radar! While condiments add flavor to your food, they also add extra calories, unneeded sugar, and sodium. In fact, just an extra three three tablespoons of catsup (a single serving packet contains about 1.5 TBS) can give your meal 50 bonus calories and not in a good way either. 

Who’s buying $24 billion worth of ketchup?  Well, not just ketchup…

In 2016, Packaged Facts published an article titled  “Condiments and Sauces: U.S. Retail Market Trends and Opportunities” observing that  consumers of condiments and sauces helped that market grow to $24 billion that year. 

Also, another favorite –  Teriyaki sauce – while amazing on fish and poultry, is also a major calorie adder, not to mention its high sugar content. 

Moderation is key, so we’re not telling you to ban ketchup completely (don’t worry, french fries!). However, we also want to give you some healthier condiment options for all your breakfast, lunch, and dinner needs! So hold the ketchup for a hot second, and explore these lower-calorie condiment options for your next meal: 

Breakfast: A pad of butter and a good drizzle of maple syrup can add 200 or more extra calories on your morning pancakes. A tablespoon of strawberry jam can add an extra 50. In place of these sugary condiments, try crushing up some fruit or a dollop of nut butter over your toast or waffles. Berries and bananas make wonderful, natural sweeteners and can be easily mashed into a delightful breakfast spread. On your eggs or hashbrowns, instead of ketchup, opt for some fresh salsa or a dash of hot sauce. Both options contain less sodium and sugar. 

Lunch/Dinner: To replace creamy and fat-laden condiments like ranch, mayonnaise, and sour cream, try reaching for hummus. Hummus is made from chickpeas, which are rich in protein and fewer in calories. MoreLifestyle suggests mixing a little Greek yogurt and Parmesan cheese to replace sour cream in a baked potato. Lastly, in place of sugary teriyaki sauce, reach for low-sodium soy sauce. It still gives a nice flavor without all the added sugar calories! If you’re still looking for that little sweetness, add a little honey or coconut sugar. This way, you are fully in control of the added sugars. 

Salads: Ranch can add upwards to 148 extra calories to your delightfully healthy salad that you thought didn’t have any calories! Instead, squeeze a lemon over your greens to give it a little bite and brightness. Olive oil, while caloric, contains heart-healthy fats with no added sugar. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar can take your salad to the next level. With some fresh ground pepper, there’s no need for a highly caloric dressing! 

Ultimately, we want to stress that it’s not so much about avoiding condiments completely, but adding them to your meals within reason. Condiments can truly be sneaky and add calories, sugar, and sodium without you realizing it! Also, it’s best to opt for the real, wholesome condiments rather than the chemically-added, stay-on-the-shelf-for-eternity options that don’t taste as good anyway! 

Ready to eat something that IS delicious?

* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

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