Summer is in full swing, and I can already smell those burgers as we get ready to fire up our grills for the Fourth of July weekend.
Growing up, our family had huge parties in the summer. I get my love of cooking from my dad, who has always loved manning the grill. There’s just something about a classic backyard BBQ that screams summer to me, but the condiments we loaded on our burgers and dogs as kids are packed with crap ingredients.
Rather than sacrifice the flavors of my summertime favorites, I’ve rounded up some healthy summer condiment swaps that pack a punch of flavor without the added junk.
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined oils, natural flavors, and artificial flavors and dyes are some of the crap ingredients found in a lot of the condiments on grocery store shelves.
Fortunately, better choices are becoming more readily available, which was not the case when I started cleaning up my diet 8 years ago.
Today I’m sharing info on some of the highly processed ingredients found in many condiments and my favorite healthy condiment swaps.
Some posts and information that I have read about condiments being unhealthy refer to the number of calories found in the condiments, not to the ingredients.
If you have been here for a while, you know I am not about counting calories. You can read more about calories in vs. calories out in my post, 5 Tips That Will Change The Way You Think About Nutrition. It’s not about the calories. It’s about the quality of the ingredients that we are putting into our bodies.
Common Highly Processed Ingredients Found In Condiments
These are some of the most common unhealthy ingredients found in condiments, but it’s not a full list. It’s important to check ingredient labels when shopping for packaged food. If you see something you can’t pronounce, or an ingredient you wouldn’t find in your kitchen, then most likely it’s not something you want to put in your body.
Sugar – Added sugar is hiding everywhere in our packaged food and has well over 50 different names. One of the most common forms found in condiments is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a highly processed sugar-based sweetener made from corn, which is usually genetically modified. It is also found in snacks, soda, sweetened yogurt, salad dressings, and many other packaged products.
The average American is consuming 17 teaspoons of sugar per day. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, depression, fatty liver disease, heart disease, leaky gut, dementia, and cancer.
Soybean Oil – Soybean oil is a refined inflammatory oil that often contains high levels of glyphosate. Refined oils contain large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Because so much of our food is processed with refined oils, we are getting too many omega 6s and not enough omega 3s. This causes an imbalance in our bodies which can lead to chronic inflammation and a host of medical issues. You can read more about refined oils in my Guide to the Healthiest Cooking Oils.
Natural Flavors – Natural flavors are flavoring agents manufacturers use to make highly processed food taste good and keep you coming back for more. They are complex mixtures created by food chemists.
Natural flavors are derived from plant or animal matter. They can also contain preservatives, emulsifiers, solvents, and other additives. Their function is for flavor, not nutrition. The FDA does not require the ingredients used to make the natural flavors to be listed on food labels unless they contain a common allergen.
Artificial Flavors – The main difference between artificial flavors and natural flavors is that artificial flavors come from synthetic ingredients made in a lab, not from plant or animal matter.
Artificial Dyes – Artificial dyes are derived from petroleum and are used to give food color. There is a lot of controversy about the health risks involved when consuming artificial dyes. Some of the health issues linked to artificial dyes are behavioral changes, allergies, and cancer.
Healthy Condiment Swaps
Finding products that do not contain harmful ingredients is becoming much easier. There are more companies creating quality products that contain nutritious ingredients, and some of the big brands are beginning to take some of the crap ingredients out of their products. Here are some things to look for when shopping for condiments and some of my favorite swaps:
Ingredients to Avoid in Ketchup: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and natural flavors
My favorite ketchup is Primal Kitchen Organic and Unsweetened Ketchup. It contains a few simple ingredients which include: organic tomato concentrate, organic balsamic vinegar, organic onion powder, organic garlic powder, and organic spices.
Ingredients to Avoid in Mustard: artificial dyes and natural flavors
French’s Classic Yellow Mustard contains natural flavors and costs a little more than Walmart’s Organic Great Value Yellow Mustard. Often a product containing unwanted ingredients is sitting right next to a less expensive better choice. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredient labels.
Note: When a packaged product is labeled organic, it means it contains no artificial dyes, sweeteners, preservatives, or flavors. It also contains no GMOs, partially hydrogenated oils, glyphosate, synthetic fertilizers, or synthetic pesticides.
Ingredients to Avoid in Barbeque Sauce: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, natural flavors, sodium benzoate, modified corn starch
I recently asked my SGM community to name their favorite barbeque sauce. Sweet Baby Ray’s and Stubb’s were the top choices. Tom usually makes homemade barbeque sauce, but my son always has some Sweet Baby Ray’s or Stubb’s in the fridge.
Sweet Baby Ray’s has 16 grams of added sugar per serving and contains all the ingredients listed above except brown sugar.
Stubb’s Original has 4 grams of added sugar per serving. It does not contain HFCS but contains sugar, brown sugar, and natural flavors. When choosing between the two, Stubb’s is the better option.
I recently tried several barbeque sauces that contained no added sugar. My favorite was Primal Kitchen’s Organic Golden BBQ Sauce. I’m going to be honest it’s not the same as Sweet Baby Ray’s or Stubb’s but it is good!
Ingredients to Avoid in Pickles: artificial dyes, natural flavors, and sugar
I love Woodstock Organic Sliced Kosher Dill Pickles. They have no added sugar or artificial dyes, and they are delish!
Ingredients to Avoid in Mayonnaise: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and natural flavors
I avoided mayonnaise for years because of all of the junky ingredients. Thankfully, there are some much better choices now. I am a huge fan of both Primal Kitchen and Chosen Foods Mayo. They are both made with avocado oil and contain no added sugar or natural flavors.
I did not make all of these healthy condiment swaps at once. If you’re not ready to give up the Sweet Baby Ray’s, start with the mustard.
Small steps matter! Making one swap at a time as you run out of something adds up. I hope this info helps you to make informed decisions when you are grocery shopping for your barbeques and picnics this summer.