Healthy Condiment Substitutions That Don’t Skimp on Flavor

Picture yourself in a grocery store, staring at all the condiments around you. You are wondering which ones are acceptable for the diverse eaters attending your barbeque tonight. Are any of the options healthy? Here are the most common and least nutritious condiments and substitutes that decrease calories, increase nutrient density and can even pack more flavor.

Try substituting…

Mayonnaise with mashed avocado or pesto

While homemade mayonnaise is actually not that bad for you, there are some better alternatives that pack more nutrition and fewer calories. Commercial brand mayonnaise is typically made with oils high in polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil and soybean oil. We recommend swapping in mashed avocado instead for monounsaturated fats, fiber and plant sterols. These three components of avocados all contribute to a healthy heart by decreasing “bad” cholesterol, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Want to make your sandwich high in monounsaturated fat but also antioxidants and flavor? We recommend adding pesto to your sandwich, which contains olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts, basil, garlic and sometimes Parmesan cheese.

Relish with plain chopped pickles or sauerkraut

Did you know that just one tablespoon of relish contains five grams of added sugar? To put it in perspective, that is about ¼ the amount of pure sugar in one tablespoon. Since added sugar is seen to increase your risk of many diseases such as hyperlipidemia and diabetes, anywhere we can decrease added sugar is best. Most likely, if you like relish, you like pickles. We recommend chopping up pickles that have been marinated in a sweet vinegar and adding them to the top of your veggie dog. If you love relish for the crunch and brininess, we recommend using sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is made by fermenting cabbage by lactic acid fermentation. It has a distinctive sour taste, and many modern brands add different herbs and spices to give it a distinct flavor. We recommend not only adding it to hot dogs or hamburgers but also to salads or sandwiches. Added bonus? It is chock-full of healthy probiotics.

Ketchup with mustard or salsa

Along with relish, ketchup is also high in added sugar and very far from being a tomato-based product. Thankfully, what you usually put ketchup on, you can also add mustard. Mustard is very low-calorie and has no added sugar. Mustard not your thing but love tomatoes? Try adding fresh salsa. Fresh salsa has all the tomato flavor and then some without all the calories and sugar.

Sour cream-based dip or cheese sauce with hummus

Decreasing saturated fat in the diet is essential to heart-health, but it is easy to go over the recommended 4-5% of total calories when eating condiments high in saturated fat. Sour cream and cheese are both high-fat dairy products that pack about 6 grams per serving. A heart-healthy alternative is hummus. It is a base of chickpeas (high in fiber), olive oil, tahini (healthy fats) and other flavors like garlic (anti-inflammatory).

Creamy dressing with infused oils and vinegars

It is no surprise we are recommending swapping in oil and vinegar dressings for creamy dressings such as Thousand Island or ranch, but we highly suggest making your own at home. Some store-bought vinaigrettes are not always healthier. They can have sugar added to them or stabilizers to make them thicken. We recommend purchasing an infused oil such as garlic olive oil and mixing it with a flavorful vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or balsamic. Shake it up in a bottle and pour!

Butter with all-natural peanut butter or nut butter

If you love toast in the morning, we highly suggest swapping out butter for an alternative that provides more than just healthy fats. By adding in peanut butter or nut butter, you also add protein, which helps to keep you full longer. Tip: Choose a peanut butter or nut butter that needs to be stirred and check the label carefully. Some brands claim to be all-natural but are actually using palm oil. Palm oil may seem harmless, but it is high in saturated fat.

Whether you’re planning your next BBQ or making a chicken wrap for lunch, try swapping in these healthy condiment substitutes that not only add nutrition but also pack a ton of flavor. You (and your heart) will be happy you did.


Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.