Maybe I should rephrase: In my world of bland food items and a lack of preparatory enthusiasm, condiments keep me eating clean. I have seen umpteens and jillions of scrumptious looking recipes out there in the eatosphere. They are published every day, jumping off my screen with all the beautiful vibrancy that only such wholesome ingredients can deliver. They are as clean as clean can be, but remain out of reach for me personally. Whether they have too many ingredients, unbalanced macros or lengthy prep times, they never quite make it off my laptop.
I would love to embrace these lovely looking meals, but you know me. I am all about quick and easy when it comes to food. I just don’t have what it takes to excel in the kitchen, especially 6 times a day. I have discovered this about myself and I’m OK with it. However, I am NOT OK with eating stuff that has no taste. I’ve tried this as a long-term strategy, and I have FAILED*.
*During times when I’m trying to lean out, I use only the condiments with basically zero calories like Tabasco, yellow mustard and stevia.
I can dress up my non-exciting clean foods as long as I’m careful with my portions, because you should know that some of my choices can be a little less virtuous than the elements they’re garnishing. Take a look at the line-up, and you’ll see what I mean. That said, this list is not meant to limit you to what I’m using, but as a guide that may help you feel better about how you’re eating or give you ideas about how to make your experience better by learning how to use what you love!
BONNE MAMAN WILD BLUEBERRY PRESERVES
The sugariest but most delicious of the bunch. I use 1 teaspoon of this lovely jam to round out my snack of fat-free greek yogurt and 24 raw almonds every day. The jar is filled with tons of those tiny little blueberries that just burst with flavor when you bite into them. The taste is so large that I only need 1/3 of the portion size to liven up every bite of an entire cup of plain yogurt. Not only that, it’s made with 5 ingredients, all of which I have heard of. SERVING SIZE 1 tablespoon CALORIES 50 CARBS 13g SUGARS 13 FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 0
HEINZ 57 I’ve been deeply attached to this one since childhood. My mom always had it at the table when she served fried pork chops with buttered noodles. Such a lovely rib-sticking southern meal… I’m drooling now. Anyway. I currently use 1 tablespoon of this sauce on my white meats for extra flavor. It’s zingy and a little sweet at the same time, adding just enough pizzaz to keep my tastebuds awake through the entire 4 ounces, which is a lot when you’re talking about a pile of ground turkey. Although the macros are better on this one, it’s very processed. High fructose corn syrup is positioned as the 2nd ingredient on the list and garners a sad face on foodfacts.com. I realize it’s not the cleanest choice, but in the grand scheme of things I justify using it a few times a week. SERVING SIZE 1 tablespoon CALORIES 20 CARBS 5g SUGARS 4 FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 190mg
ORTEGA TACO SAUCE (MEDIUM) Falling right in line with Heinz 57, the processedness leaves something to be desired. However, Ortega taco sauce is simply THE element that makes food taste mexican to me. I know cumin and chili powder can do this as well, but it’s just not the same, and I insist on using 1 tablespoon of this awesome sauceome for my 5 scrambled egg whites with spinach every day. SERVING SIZE 1 tablespoon CALORIES 10 CARBS 2 SUGARS <1g FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 125mg
YELLOW MUSTARD As we work our way down the line, we’re getting a little healthier, and this one has a fabulous macro profile. It’s basically free and there is not so much processing and fewer ingredients, all of which are recognizable. It’s hard to believe that nuclear yellow color is natural. Turmeric is listed on the label, though, so I figure it’s possible. I use mustard on my chunk light tuna, mixed with grape tomatoes and pickles. A little puckery, yes, but I love it in a pinch. I do also eat sandwiches from time to time. I always try to use real meat, like sliced sauteed chicken breast, instead of deli and pile it onto 1 slice (halved) of whole grain sprouted bread. SERVING SIZE 1 teaspoon CALORIES 0 CARBS 1 SUGARS <1g FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 55mg
NEWMAN’S OWN LITE ROASTED GARLIC BALSAMIC DRESSING This one is popular in our household because the small person thinks Paul Newman looks like her dad, so we call it the “Daddy Dressing”. Needless to say, Daddy is quite pleased with this comparison and seriously promotes the name. I feel pretty good about this one as well, save the sodium. All natural ingredients and it’s feasible in small quantities. It’s also a huge win in my clean eating war because the whole family partakes! I use 2 tablespoons (I measure them) on all my salads and in many of my Tuna Toss concoctions. SERVING SIZE 2 tablespoons CALORIES 50 CARBS 3 SUGARS 3 FAT 4 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 420mg
TABASCO Any self-respecting Texan is expected to have this little bottle from Avery Island, Loosiana on hand at all times. Though I now reside in Colorado, my pantry still reflects my proud heritage. Another fabulous choice that’s basically free. I use however much I want (which ain’t much ’cause it’s hot) on my scrambled egg whites, in my Mom’s Beef Stew and on ground turkey, when I’m tired of or have used too much of my Heinz 57. I don’t eat much popcorn anymore, but I used to add a sprinkle to pep up my movie night snacking. SERVING SIZE 1 teaspoon CALORIES .6 CARBS 0 SUGARS 0 FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 0
VLASIC ZESTY DILL PICKLES Because these jars line the aisle alongside all the sauces above, I put them in the condiment category, though I sometimes use them as an entree. Yes I just said that, but I’ll address it later. As you can see there is a running theme in my garnishing habits. Spice, heat and zest! These pack a lot of flavor without a lot of calories, though they basically have zero nutritional value. I use these cut-up in my tuna toss mentioned above and sometimes in a grape/cherry tomato and pickle salad late at night on my PMS, extra hungry days. As a main course, I’ll eat up to 4 spears (because they’re basically free) with about 8-10 tomatoes combined together. Kind of strange, and loaded with sodium, but it works for me, and most importantly, it’s an occasional event. SERVING SIZE 1 spear CALORIES 5 CARBS 1g SUGARS 1g FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 280mg
CRYSTAL LIGHT AND CRYSTAL LIGHT PURE These little packets of powder were a lifesaver during my transformation as I maneuvered away from dessert. I’d stock up on every flavor and enjoy a tall glass after dinner every evening. These days I can usually do without, but I keep the regular on hand in my favorite mocktail flavor (margarita) for celebrations and the Pure for other nights when I just need a little sumpn’. The Pure is far and away more healthful, based on its use of stevia. However it does pack more calories than the regular by about 33% per serving. If you’re wondering about the new, cute little squeezy bottles, they use artificial sweeteners, just like the regular powders. I’d use in moderation. REGULAR MARGARITA – CALORIES 1/8 pitcher packet CARBS 0 SUGARS 0 FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 30mg PURE LEMONADE – SERVING SIZE 1/2 packet CALORIES 15 CARBS 3g SUGARS 3g FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 10mg
STEVIA This one’s a clean no-brainer and another item that helped me get over sugar (mostly). I just discovered Target’s brand and use if for sweetening my hot tea. I’ve also gotten the small person to use it in hers as well, on occasion. In the past I’d doctor up a lot of things with stevia to make it sweeter – coffee especially. I’ve even read about people who sprinkle it on their meat. I have to say I’ve never gone that far, but if it’s necessary to push you forward in a clean direction, then I’m all about it. Use it like sugar, but maybe 1/4 as much. This stuff is SWEET! SERVING SIZE 3/4 teaspoon CALORIES 0 CARBS 3g SUGARS 0 FAT 0 PROTEIN 0 SODIUM 0
GARLIC SALT I know salt is bad for you IF you use too much of it. This seasoning is strong, and packs 1,400mg per teaspoon, so I only use a tiny sprinkle at a time. Right now I’m enjoying it in my oh-so-easy guacamole (avocado, lime juice and garlic salt with chopped tomatoes) and sometimes sprinkled on my veggies. SERVING SIZE 1/4 teaspoon SODIUM 490mg
CINNAMON A great and totally free spice that I’m currently using in my oatmeal, in my protein shakes and sometimes mixed with my summer nectarines and fat-free yogurt.
So many times when I’m asked what I eat, I tend to forget these particulars. I’m so glad I finally realized what an important role these condiments play in keeping me committed to my new lifestyle. I hope this offers you some hope, and adds some flavor along your path toward personal greatness!
What are your favorites, and how do you use them?