Diet-to-Go Blog
  1. How to Enjoy Your Favorite Condiments Without Adding Calories

    Recently I have eaten with friends in restaurants and observed them slathering on mayonnaise and remoulades with abandon and wildly salting their food before even tasting it. I myself have been guilty of frosting my pizza with parmesan and peppers before sampling the original flavor.

    Most people are excited to embellish their food with flavorful accoutrements without thinking about the possible consequences to their waistlines. Although they may seem trivial, condiments aren’t just toppings, they’re food — with nutrients and calorie counts.

    Using condiments, as well as other sauces and flavorings, can add pizazz to a dish, but if you’re not careful with what you choose and how much you use, they can also add a lot of extra calories and get in the way of your weight loss success.

    Some of the biggest high calorie condiment culprits include butter, mayo and maple syrup. While these items may seem essential to our very happiness, it is important to know how many calories they add and possible alternatives that can be just as tasty.

    Here are 11 Flavors to Savor That Won’t Break the Calorie Bank

    Homemade Seasoned Salt

    A handy thing to keep in your desk drawer, homemade seasoned salt is great on anything that needs jazzing up while curtailing your sodium intake. You can reuse an empty spice jar as a vehicle for your seasoning including any variety of herbs and spices you like. This is my favorite blend: 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon cayenne. Mix well in a bowl and put them in to your spice jar. With all these great flavors, a little goes a long way to make your meal come to life. If you choose not to make you own, Mrs. Dash Table Blends or Lawry’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning are also good calorie-free options.


    Horseradish has been used medicinally and in kitchens for thousands of years. Horseradish has been studied for its antibiotic and cancer-preventive properties. It has also been used to treat sinusitis and muscle pain. Often eaten with dishes that include beef or seafood, horseradish is a spicy and pungent zero calorie condiment. Be sure to read the label, as many brands contain added cream or sugar, which increase the caloric content. Kraft Horseradish and Heluva Good Horseradish each have zero calories per serving. According to Prevention online, you can “mix [horseradish] into ketchup for a cocktail sauce or mustard for a sandwich spread, or add to yogurt to serve with lamb or fish.”

    Hot Sauce

    Adding spice does not mean adding calories and may even bolster your weight-maintenance attempts. Hot sauce is a good addition to just about everything from egg dishes to soups. Many hot sauces on supermarket shelves contain zero calories. Texas Pete Red Hot Sauce, Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce and Sriracha all contain zero calories and can be used to heat up any savory dish. The peppers in hot sauce boast many health benefits, contributing to cancer prevention and eye health but, most impressively, according to Prevention online, hot sauce actually curbs appetite. So sprinkle on the fire with reckless abandon.


    Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made from chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and tahini (sesame butter). It comes in many varieties; my favorites are garlic, roasted red pepper and Kalamata olive. Hummus as a dip or snack with chips or crackers can be a calorie trap but as a condiment it can be a protein and fiber rich addition to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwiches, wraps and salads. Popular bands like Sabra, Tribe and Athenos have between 50 and 70 calories in 2 tablespoons of the classic variety. If your resolve is good and you can stick to a reasonable portion (two to four tablespoons), you can even use it as a dip for fresh cut veggies such as carrots, cucumbers and colorful peppers.


    What’s not to love about ketchup? It turns out it is also good for you. According to Prevention online, the lycopene in ketchup can help to lower risks of cardiovascular disease. “While all ketchup contains some lycopene, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic versions contain up to 60 percent more per gram than conventional brands. The researchers also found that organic ketchup had the highest levels of vitamins A, C, and E.” Although ketchup does contain some sugar (approximately 4 grams) it only contributes 19 calories per tablespoon. The thing to be wary of are the high-fat foods ketchup tends to accompany. Try using this nutrient-rich condiment on veggie burgers, in marinades and in other creative recipes.

    Lemon Juice

    Because of its high potassium content, lemon juice controls high blood pressure, dizziness, and nausea. Lemons add a fresh, citrus flavor to dishes and drinks. Lemon juice, with its sweet and sour flavor combination, makes it a zero-calorie, vitamin C-rich condiment used in many kitchens and restaurants. Lemon juice is commonly added to dress up fish dishes, flavor veggies without increasing sodium and can freshen up a simple glass of water. Great Value 100% Lemon Juice and Realemon 100% from Concentrate Lemon Juice are two brands that contain no calories.

    Pickle Relish

    Relish can be added to sandwiches, salads and even main meat dishes to give them a sweet and tangy flavor boost. A heaping tablespoon of most brands of relish is only 14 calories, so you don’t really have to hold back. Popular brands include Mount Olive, Del Monte and Vlasic but you can find even fancier versions at local farmers markets and health food stores that include unusual ingredients like hot peppers, green tomatoes, radish, mango, celery or onion.


    Salsa is a great low-calorie, low-fat flavor booster. You can add it to bean soups, burritos and quesadillas (hold the sour cream), rice and bean bowls, cucumber slices, scrambled eggs, baked potatoes or braised cabbage. One-quarter cup of tomato salsa has only 30 calories. If you are salt sensitive, try dicing fresh tomatoes (heirloom varieties are my personal favorites) and adding a bit of diced red onion, fresh garlic and a squeeze or two of lime juice to make your own pico de gallo. You can also find or make a non-traditional salsa with mangos, pineapples, corn, black beans and many other ingredients.

    Sauerkraut or Kimchi

    Kimchi has grown in popularity in America over the last 10 years and is no longer just a condiment or side dish to Korean meals. This spicy fermented Napa cabbage is now frequently included in salads, sandwiches, stir-fries and soups. With only 10 calories per ¼ cup, the strong flavor of kimchi is distinctive and exotic and is now widely available at Asian grocery stores, health food stores and some high-end supermarkets. Kimchi can be eaten alone or paired with other dishes. To keep the calorie and fat content low, use your kimchi in low-fat dishes like stir-fries or soups.

    If spicy isn’t your thing, sauerkraut is kimchi’s German cousin. Sauerkraut can be made from any type of cabbage and is also a zero calorie topping. Traditionally found at hotdog stands, sauerkraut can adorn any sausage dish or sandwich and cost you only 7 calories for a ¼ cup serving. According to Prevention online, “Sauerkraut is full of probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum) that can help relieve the gas, stomach distension, and discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome—and may improve the quality of life in up to 95% of those with IBS.”

    Seasoned Rice Vinegar

    Seasoned rice vinegar can jazz up salads and plain veggies with its salty, sweet, tangy flavor. A little goes a long way as this zero calorie vinegar packs a lot of flavor. One tablespoon of the regular flavor has 590 mg of sodium so opt for a low sodium version. Kikkoman and Marukan are two common brands that can be found in conventional grocery stores in the international food aisle or near the other vinegars.

    Tzatziki Sauce

    Hannah Tzatziki Sauce from Costo has 50 calories in two tablespoons. Tzatziki sauce gets its name from the Greeks and its tangy, fresh flavor from yogurt, cucumbers, lemon and other ingredients. I like to dip just about anything in it, especially roasted shrimp, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, corn chips, breadsticks and pretzels. Serve tzatziki sauce with grape tomatoes and red onion slices skewered on toothpicks and with various deli meats for parties. In general, tzatziki sauce is a healthy condiment, but some recipes are more nutritious than others. Check the label to make sure the tzatziki sauce in your cart fits into your calorie budget.

    Looking for alternatives to other popular condiments? Take a look at these lower calorie options: 

    Condiments are tasty treats to add to almost any type of food. As long as you remember that condiments have calories too, feel free to slather, squirt, top, sprinkle and spread to your heart’s content.

    Author: Brandi Redo
    Brandi is a Certified Health Coach at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. Balance is the number one mission in Brandi’s life. In her spare time she loves to bike, do Zumba and play tennis, but hates gym exercise. She is an amateur gardener and nature walker, who is on the constant look out for interesting insects and small animals. Brandi encourages people to “find the sweetness in life.”


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