Condiments add lots of flavour, but what else do those dollops on the side and drizzles on top bring to a meal? Nutritionist Claire Turnbull investigates.
What’s in it? Varieties include hot, English, wholegrain and Dijon. The main ingredients are water, mustard seeds (20–30 per cent), salt and sugar.
Uses: Mustard is usually paired with hot and cold meats and adds punchy flavour to sandwiches, dressings and sauces.
Nutrition info: Per two teaspoon serve, mustard has: around 60kJ; less than 1g fat; a high sodium content – some have up to 200mg sodium.
Mustard adds great flavour and a little goes a long way. If you are watching your sodium intake, stick to 1–2 teaspoons per serve and compare sodium levels between brands before you buy.
Look out for
Dijonnaise mustard. This is not the same as Dijon mustard, since it’s a combination of mayonnaise and mustard and is much higher in fat and kilojoules than other mustards.
What’s in it? Water, soy beans, wheat (in most brands), salt and sugar.
Uses: Soy sauce is a staple of Asian cuisine and is used with sushi, in stir-fries and to flavour sauces.
Nutrition info: One tablespoon of standard soy sauce has: 25–45kJ; more than 900mg sodium, but there are lower sodium versions available.
Many people use soy sauce to flavour dishes on a daily basis but beware: you can get your total daily quota of sodium from just two tablespoons of regular soy sauce. Measure it out with a teaspoon (one teaspoon has about 300mg sodium). It’s best to choose low sodium varieties whenever possible.
Tip: When eating out at Asian restaurants, ask them to prepare your dish without soy sauce and add it (sparingly) yourself.
What’s in it? Concentrated tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and salt.
Uses: While some people add tomato sauce to everything, others prefer it just with burgers and chips.
Nutrition info: Per tablespoon, regular tomato sauce varieties have: around 75–90kJ; less than 1g fat; around 4g sugar (equivalent to one teaspoon); between 145–200mg sodium. There are ‘lite’ varieties available which have (per tablespoon): 60–70kJ; less than 1g fat; around 3g sugar • between 25–80mg sodium.
Tomato sauce is a low-fat sauce, with the added bonus of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. But regular varieties contain about one-third sugar (one teaspoon in every tablespoon) and are quite high in sodium. Watch your portion size and definitely choose a light version where you can.
Tip: Use sliced tomato in burgers rather than relying solely on tomato sauce for flavour.
What’s in it? Oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. While a traditional vinaigrette is a 3:1 mix of oil and vinegar, recipes can vary widely, so it pays to read the label to know exactly what ratio mix you are buying. Lower-fat versions are mostly vinegar-based.
Uses: A classic dressing for any kind of salad.
Nutrition info: Nutrition values vary across the range of vinaigrettes. A regular vinaigrette, such as Heinz Tangy Tomato with Basil vinaigrette, has, per tablespoon: 298kJ; 6.7g fat; 2g sugar ; 179mg sodium. Lower-fat versions, like Praise French Vinaigrette, use slightly less oil and are lower in energy. One tablespoon contains: 166kJ; 3.7g fat; 1.6g sugar; 124mg sodium. Light and oil-free varieties, such as Coles 99% fat free Balsamic Vinaigrette, are much lower in kilojoules. One tablespoon has: 36kJ; 0g fat; 1.8g sugar; 169mg sodium.
Vinaigrettes use healthy oils, but they can be high in sodium so, as with most sauces, watch what you pour. If you are watching your weight, use a smaller amount of the traditional varieties or drizzle a light version over your salad.
What’s in it? Water, molasses, malt vinegar, spirit vinegar, sugar, salt, anchovies, onions, tamarind extract, garlic, spices and flavours.
Uses: A popular ingredient in marinades, and a tasty addition to meat and chicken dishes.
Nutrition info: Per teaspoon, Worcestershire sauce has: 20kJ; 0g fat; less than 1g sugar; 60mg sodium.
A great all-round condiment that’s low in kilojoules and fat. But try not to be too heavy-handed as it can significantly increase the sodium content of your dish.
Tip: For delicious chicken kebabs, marinate chunks of chicken in Worcestershire sauce and a splash of olive oil. Thread onto kebab sticks with chopped vegies and grill.
Sweet chilli sauce
What’s in it? Sugar, water, chilli, garlic, vinegar, salt.
Uses: A delicious dipping sauce used in many Asian dishes, stir-fries and dressings.
Nutrition info: One tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce has roughly: 190kJ; less than 0.1g fat; 10g sugar; 200mg sodium. This makes sweet chilli sauce two-thirds sugar.
A versatile condiment with lots of flavour, but it’s high in sodium and two-thirds of the sauce is sugar!
What’s in it? A thick creamy dressing with herbs and black pepper.
Uses: As a salad dressing or dipping sauce.
Nutrition info: There is a huge variation in the nutritional value of ranch dressings. Of those we reviewed, one tablespoon contains: between 210–410kJ; between 30–65 per cent fat; a high sodium content (between 135–175mg sodium).
Since Ranch dressing is a high-fat dressing it’s best used occasionally and in small amounts. Lighter versions are available, so be sure to compare the nutrition label with full-fat versions.
What’s in it? Wasabi is also called ‘Japanese horseradish’ since horseradish is the predominant ingredient. The other ingredients will vary by brand, so be sure to check the label. Wasabi is available in both powder and paste forms.
Uses: Provides an intense, spicy flavour and is mostly used with Japanese cuisine.
Nutrition info: Half a teaspoon of wasabi has around: 30kJl; 50–60mg sodium.
Just a tiny amount provides a huge, bold flavour – test it carefully in the beginning to find out how much you can handle.
Tip: Mix one teaspoon of wasabi into a few tablespoons of light mayonnaise to accompany grilled salmon or tuna.
What’s in it? There are many varieties of chutney on offer, from mango to tomato, all made from some combination of vegetables/fruits, sugar, water, salt and flavours.
Uses: Chutney wakes up sandwiches, salads, burgers and barbecued meat.
Nutrition info: With such a variety in the type of chutneys, nutrition information varies. The predominant ingredient in some chutneys is sugar or sugar syrup, and some are made from less than one-third vegetables or fruit – making them little more than salty jam, so be sure to keep an eye on the ingredient list. Serving size can vary by as much as 20g between manufacturers, so for a more accurate comparison across different products, look at the per 100g column on the nutrition panel. Chutney varieties, per two tablespoons, have: 100kJ to more than 300kJ; 3g to more than 18g sugar; 50mg to more than 400mg sodium.
Choose a chutney that has vegetables or fruit listed as one of the first ingredients (listed higher than sugar) and choose a variety with less sodium.
Mayonnaise and aioli
What’s in it? Brands of mayonnaise vary enormously. Thick and creamy varieties of mayo and aioli are made from the traditional blend of oil, egg and vinegar. Versions that are less creamy generally have less oil and more vinegar and water.
Uses: Mayonnaise is most commonly spread on sandwiches and burgers or stirred through salads.
Nutrition info: It pays to check! Traditional oil- and egg-based mayonnaise is very high in fat and kilojoules with around 80 per cent of the energy coming from fat. Two tablespoons of mayonnaise can have: up to 1300kJ; over 20g fat (but keep in mind that most of them are healthy fats).Light and lower-fat mayonnaise. Is a light mayonnaise always the better choice? It depends on which one you buy. Don’t assume light versions are always the lowest in fat. One light mayonnaise we found had 2g more fat per tablespoon than Kraft’s Classic Mayonnaise. But most mayonnaises can be a good deal lighter in both fat and energy, so always do a label comparison check.
Use the right mayonnaise for the job. If you can’t tear yourself away from the creamy, higher-fat versions, stick to a small serving. If you regularly enjoy a fair amount of dressing, or you are making a salad requiring a lot of dressing, a lower-fat variety is best.
Tip: If you love a thick and creamy dressing for coleslaw or potato salad, mix one or two tablespoons of a lower-fat light mayonnaise with plain low-fat yoghurt. It will still be thick and creamy, but with much less fat.
What’s in it? Water, anchovies and sugar.
Uses: Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. It is often added to dishes during cooking or mixed with other ingredients to create a dipping sauce.
Nutrition info: Per tablespoon, fish sauce: is low in kilojoules and sugar; has less than 40kJ; is very high in sodium – containing up to 1800mg.
A great product which adds flavour – but because it’s often used with other high-sodium sauces, use sparingly.
Tip: Add water to fish sauce-based dipping sauces. Fish sauce is strong so you will still get the flavour with less sodium.
Unsure of how these condiments fit into your recommended daily intake of energy, fat and sodium?