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20 Healthy Condiments (And 8 Unhealthy Ones)

Adding condiments to your meals is a great way to enhance flavor and — potentially — add health benefits.

However, some condiments contain unhealthy ingredients like artificial additives and high amounts of added salt and sugar.

Healthy condiments are low in added sugar and pack nutritious ingredients like protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

Here are 20 healthy condiments that are both tasty and nutritious.

Traditional pesto is a sauce made with fresh basil leaves, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

Pesto is a good source of zinc — a mineral essential for immune health, wound healing, and developmental growth. A 1/4-cup (64-grams) serving of traditional pesto provides 8% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this mineral (1).

The high zinc content of pesto makes it an excellent condiment for vegetarians. Vegetarians may need about 50% more zinc per day than non-vegetarians due to the reduced availability of plant-based zinc (2).

You can add pesto to baked chicken, use it as a pasta sauce, or spread it on a sandwich or flatbread.

Just keep in mind that pesto may not be suitable for strict vegetarians. Cheese is often produced using rennet, a set of enzymes derived from calf stomachs.

  • Ranch dressing. Ranch dressing is high in calories with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) providing 129 calories. Be mindful of the serving size when using this dressing or substitute for a lower calorie alternative like salsa.
  • Fat-free salad dressing. Though lower in calories, fat-free dressings often contain more added sugar and salt than their full-fat counterparts. Instead, use a salad dressing made from wholesome, low-sugar ingredients (41).
  • Barbecue sauce. This sauce often has a lot of added sugar, with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) packing over 11 grams (3 teaspoons).
  • Pancake syrup. Syrup often contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Excessive intake of HFCS has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. As a healthier alternative, use maple syrup (42, 43, 44, 45).
  • Queso. Most queso contains additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has been associated with weight gain, but more research is needed. As a healthier alternative, use cheese or nutritional yeast (46, 47).
  • Margarine. Many margarine products contain traces of trans fat. Many studies have linked this type of fat to heart disease. Use healthy fats like olive oil or grass-fed butter instead (48).
  • Teriyaki sauce. Teriyaki sauce is high in sodium, with just 2 tablespoons (30 ml) providing over 60% of the RDI for this mineral. High-sodium diets have been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and stroke (49).
  • Artificial sweeteners. Some observational studies link zero-calorie sweeteners to obesity. Still, the research is mixed. It’s best to limit artificial sweeteners in your diet (50, 51).

Just keep in mind that pesto may not be suitable for strict vegetarians. Cheese is often produced using rennet, a set of enzymes derived from calf stomachs.

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