A Guide to Condiments
Have you tried raspberry mustard yet? How about putting some salsa on that baked potato?
Condiments are things added to foods to add to the flavor and today they are getting more compliments than ever. They used to be bit players in most meals, but as Americans seek ways to cut fat from their diets they're finding that condiments can add lots of flavor without the fat -- if you choose properly.
Example: Turkey breast with tomato on whole-wheat bread is a sensible selection -- until you slather each slice of bread with mayonnaise. Two tablespoons of mayonnaise add about 200 calories and 22 grams of fat. Try mustard instead: lots of flavor, no fat.
A salad of mixed greens and fresh vegetables is virtually fat-free -- until you douse it with regular Italian dressing. Two tablespoons of Italian dressing add about 14 grams of fat, and 140 calories. Try no-fat dressing instead and get all the benefits of a salad without the drawbacks.
If you choose properly, you can have all the zest and flavor that condiments bring without the fat and calories. Many old favorites now come in low-fat or no-fat, low-salt and low-sugar versions.
What's more, condiments are an affordable indulgence. You tend to use them in small amounts. What you don't use, you can keep in the refrigerator for a relatively long time.
Condiments can be the key to helping you stay on a low-fat diet. Here's a look at the most popular toppings.
A slow-cooked, pureed tomato sauce flavored with spices, horseradish, onion, garlic, vinegar and salt.
Origin: The first ketchup sauce came from Eastern Asia and was made from pickled fish and spices, as a topping for poultry and fish. The English substituted mushrooms, walnuts, anchovies and, finally, tomatoes. In America, bottled tomato ketchup was manufactured by 1876.
Traditional Uses: On hot dogs, hamburgers and with french fries.
New Uses: As a sauce for seafood, such as shrimp or fishcakes, or meats, including a roast.
Plus Side: Popular and versatile, ketchup is a base for many concoctions, from moist tomato cake to Russian dressing and sweet-and-sour sauce.
Minus Side: Sodium and sugar content. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that although a tablespoon of ketchup has only a trace of fat, it contains a teaspoon of sugar, 4 grams of carbohydrates and 178 milligrams of sodium.
Chopped vegetables or fruit preserved in a sauce, often with a vinegar base.
Origin: Relish typically refers to a pickle-based condiment, and chutney usually refers to a fruit-based type of relish.
Traditional Uses: On hot dogs and hamburgers.
New Uses: As a fish sauce, with cold turkey breast.
Plus Side: Adds crunch and flavor without fat. Available in wide range of piquancy. Some varieties add ground mustard seed or tomatoes for color and flavor.
Minus Side: Dill pickle relish is loaded with sodium, sweet relish is usually lower in sodium than dill, but has added sugar.
Ground or whole mustard seeds infused with vinegar and spices, a recipe that has remained virtually unchanged since antiquity.
Origin: An herb native to Europe and southwestern Asia, mustard is mentioned in Greek and Roman writings and also in the Bible.
Traditional Uses: On hot dogs, hamburgers and cold meat sandwiches; as a dip in Chinese restaurants.
New Uses: A tangy low-fat alternative to mayonnaise in sandwiches or cold pasta salads. Combined with honey, mustard makes a tasty glaze for turkey, ham, roast beef or pork, helping to seal roasts that have been trimmed of fat.
Plus Side: Low in fat and long on flavor. There's only a trace of fat in a teaspoon of yellow mustard.
Minus Side: At 56 milligrams per teaspoon, you could rack up the sodium, but the temptation to overuse mustard probably is less than it would be for ketchup.
A mixture of egg yolks, oil, lemon juice or vinegar and seasonings.
Origin: The word is French, although the origins are obscure. Richard Hellman made bottled mayonnaise at his New York delicatessen in 1912.
Traditional Uses: As spread for sandwiches and base for cold salads, including egg, potato and macaroni salad.
New Uses: Spice it up, so that you use less, with make-your-own Dijon mayonnaise: two parts mayo, one part Dijon mustard. Mix it, half-and-half, with fat-free sour cream. In traditional mayonnaise-based salads, like macaroni, tuna or chicken with mustard, try mayonnaise-type salad dressings (sometimes called "spoonable" salad dressings) or herbed vinaigrettes.
Plus Side: It's versatile, binding ingredients go together without an overpowering taste of its own.
Minus Side: Traditionally high in fat and calories. Per tablespoon, regular mayonnaise has 11 grams of fat, about 80 milligrams of sodium and 100 calories. Low-fat substitutes have just 5 grams of fat per tablespoon, but are often higher in sodium. Fat-free varieties also are available.
Spicy sauce, made with chopped onions, tomatoes and hot peppers, flavored with cilantro and lemon or lime juice.
Origin: The Spanish word for "sauce," salsa comes from Mexican and Tex-Mex cookery.
Traditional Uses: As spice for a wide range of Mexican dishes, from tacos to tortilla chips.
New Uses: For dipping, substitute toasted pita chips or fresh or grilled vegetables. Spice up a low-fat hamburger. Add zing to grilled fish, scrambled eggs and chicken dishes. Use it as an alternative to sour cream on a baked potato or place it on pasta. Top a taco salad.
Plus Side: Low-calorie and potent in flavor. When made without oil, a tablespoon has less than a gram of fat, little sodium and only a few calories per serving.
Minus Side: When comparing commercial offerings, check labels for fat and sodium contents, which can vary widely.
The ground-up pungent white root of the horseradish plant, preserved in vinegar or beet juice.
Origin: An ancient herb, native to Eastern Europe, it is used in the Jewish Passover meal, the Seder.
Traditional Uses: To flavor meat or fish.
New Uses: In dips. Mix with low-fat whipped cream and black pepper and put on cold roast beef. Combined with ketchup, it makes a cocktail sauce. Or combine it with mustard or mayonnaise to make a spicy vegetable spread.
Plus Side: Low-fat, low-calorie, . One tablespoon contains just a trace of fat, and just a few calories -- and you're not likely to use a large amount of this!
Minus Side: Can be high in sodium. Strong flavor may overpower some people's tender taste buds. Fresh preparation may be tricky -- it's more potent than onion in provoking tears.