With grilling season in full gear, you're probably looking forward to slurping up the lip-smacking barbecue sauces as much as the grilled grub itself.
Yup, the right condiment can complement — and elevate — the flavor factor for any dish.
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Here's the problem: Most condiments come crammed with different types of preservatives and multiple sources of added sugars. But better-for-you barbecue alternatives are available if you're a savvy, in-the-know shopper.
Below, a dietitian shares exactly what to look for (and what to avoid) in a condiment. Then, add our go-to healthy condiments — from veggie-packed ketchup to garlic-spiked sauerkraut — to your shopping cart.
What to Look for When Choosing a Condiment
"The most important thing to read on any packaged food in general is always the ingredient list," dietitian Laura Burak, RD, CDN, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Once you've taken a look, keep in mind the following ingredients and nutrients.
- Whole-food ingredients: "Focus on brands with real ingredients and little to no added starches and fillers," she says. If you can pronounce them and find them in your supermarket, that's a major plus.
- Healthier fats: When it comes to creamier condiments like mayo, Burak recommends checking the fat source. "Avocado, coconut and olive oil have higher amounts of heart-healthy fats" and are better choices, she says.
- No added sugar: "For sweeter condiments like barbecue sauce and ketchup, check for sources of sugar to see whether the sweet taste comes from natural versus added sugar," Burak says. The goal is to keep added sugar to a minimum. Optimally, aim for 5 grams of sugar or less per serving.
What to Watch Out For
Again, as a general rule of thumb, pass on highly processed products in favor of those that contain more whole-food ingredients without preservatives.
- High sodium: "Pay attention to the sodium count when it comes to choosing healthier condiments," says Burak, adding, "some brands are sky-high in salt." Aim for 250 milligrams or less per serving.
- Additives: Simple, whole-food ingredients are ideal. "Watch for added starches and fillers that you can't understand or pronounce," she says.
- Added sugar: "Get familiar with words that mean sugar because there are dozens of them, including honey, maltose, agave, cane juice, corn syrup and brown sugar," she says.
Additionally, check where the sweet stuff falls in the order of ingredients. "If sugar is one of the first ingredient listed on the label, this is a telling sign that there may be too much in the condiment," she says.
6 Healthy Condiments to Buy
1. Mother Raw Organic Ketchup
Burak gives this low-sodium ketchup (only 65 milligrams per serving) an A+ thanks to its list of clear, pronounceable ingredients consisting of all real foods, many of which are organic, too.
This tasty ketchup contains zero refined sugars and gets its sweet taste from date puree, which is natural sugar, she says. Meanwhile, beetroot powder provides the ketchup's natural red tint, so no artificial coloring is needed.
Buy it: Motherraw.com; Price: $7.49
2. Primal Kitchen Vegan Mayo
With six simple ingredients, one being water, this healthy vegan mayo is a must-have on every barbecue table.
"This mayo uses avocado oil (the first ingredient) as its source of fat, which is my top pick for heart-healthy goodness," Burak says. These heart-health benefits relate in part to the nutritious monounsaturated fats found in foods like avocados.
In fact, diets rich in monounsaturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, are linked to helping reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $8.09
3. Good Food For Good Organic Classic BBQ Sauce
Unlike other sugar-laden barbecue sauces, which get their finger-licking-good taste from corn syrup, this organic barbecue sauce — with zero grams of added sugar — relies on natural date paste to give it a trace of sweetness.
To balance out the flavors, apple cider vinegar (the second ingredient listed on the label) lends a touch of tanginess, too.
And here's a bonus worth getting behind: For every jaw-droppingly delicious jar of barbecue sauce purchased, Good Food For Good donates a meal to a person in need through their Buy One, Feed One program.
Buy it: ThriveMarket.com; Price: $6.49
4. Cleveland Kitchen Roasted Garlic Kraut
Four natural ingredients — cabbage, garlic, salt and pepper — is exactly what you want in a condiment like this scrumptious sauerkraut with only 10 calories and 2 grams of carbs per serving.
As the main ingredient, cabbage — a cruciferous veggie that's loaded with free-radical-fighting antioxidants — makes sauerkraut a nutritious addition to any meal, according to Burak.
"Plus, fermented foods like sauerkraut are a great source of probiotics, aka the healthy bacteria that are beneficial for improving or restoring gut health," she says.
Buy it: Instacart.com; Price: $6.49 per pouch
5. Kitchen Crafted SPRD Creole Kicker
This non-GMO, gluten-free, kosher-certified New Orleans-style spread serves up a real kick thanks to creole mustard — plus a heap of herbs and spices — that entice your taste buds.
From burgers to fries and veggies, this tasty topper is guaranteed to upgrade whatever's on your plate.
Just be careful not to overdo it. "This condiment should be used sparingly as the calories can add up quickly if you use more than a serving or two," says Burak, adding, "a little bit of a full-fat delicious condiment goes a long way."
Buy it: KitchenCrafted.com; Price: $14.99 per 2-pack
6. True Made Foods Veracha
A healthier spin on Sriracha sauce, every jar of this zero-calorie, zero-carb savory spread comes jam-packed with vital veggies, such as tomatoes, spinach, carrots and butternut squash.
The vegetable-based version of the fan-favorite hot sauce contains pureed jalapeños and a dash of cayenne for a hint of heat, spicing up any dish.
Burak is a huge fan of True Made Foods sauces. "They're made with veggie purees, have less added sugar than most brands and taste awesome."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.99 per 2-pack