Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on May 29, 2020
Mad for Mustard
Spicy or sweet, brown or yellow, mustard gives you a burst of flavor for few calories. Use it as a dip, in sauces and dressings, or as a marinade or spread. Add Dijon-style to olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over chilled asparagus. Mustard is made from crushed mustard seeds, oil, and salt. If you’re watching how much sodium you eat, be mindful that 1 teaspoon of yellow has about 55 mg of sodium. Dijon has 120 mg -- more than twice that of the yellow.
Ketchup Is King
Americans love ketchup. We slather it on burgers and hot dogs, and dunk fries in it. The tangy red sauce made from tomatoes has good-for-you antioxidants. To keep added sugar and salt in check, make your own. Simmer a 6-ounce can of low-sodium tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon each of garlic and onion powders for an hour.
Lighten Up With Low-Fat Mayonnaise
Creamy mayo often gets a bad rap because of fat and calories. Pick low-fat mayo to lighten things up. Add it to sandwiches, potato salad, and cold slaw, or mix it with tuna and chicken. A tablespoon has just 37 calories. Better yet, use half mayo, half plain non-fat Greek yogurt for the same creaminess but fewer calories. Mayo keeps in the fridge for 10 to 12 weeks.
Be Bold With Barbecue Sauce
Think beyond ribs and grilled chicken. Barbecue sauce works great on burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, vegetables, fish, and tofu. Serve as a dip, or cook with it to add a sweet, salty flavor. From tart and vinegary to hot and spicy to sweet, it comes in many flavors. The zip and zest can come with a price, though: Barbecue sauce usually has added salt and sugar, so compare labels to find the lowest amounts of those.
Pass the Red Wine Vinegar
Tangy and sharp-tasting, red wine vinegar pairs perfectly with olive oil for an easy, healthy, and affordable salad dressing. Mix equal parts oil and vinegar. To dress, and not drown, your salad -- use 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of salad. You can also reduce vinegar over low heat for sauces, or soak fresh veggies in vinegar for a pickled taste.
Balsamic Vinegar Dresses the Part
Drizzle balsamic vinegar over strawberries to boost the fruit’s sweetness. Serve crusty bread with balsamic and olive oil instead of butter. Flavored balsamics, like raspberry, fig, or pear, can jazz up sauces, soups, and salads. Toss arugula or kale with balsamic and you have an easy and flavorful dark green salad.
Mild or Spicy, Salsa Sings!
A lively favorite with Latin roots, salsa is crammed with good-for-you tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Get adventurous and try it as a salad dressing and as a topping on burgers and wraps. Or, spoon it on top of meat or fish to perk up proteins. A quarter cup of tomato salsa will only set you back 16 to 20 calories.
Pick the Perfect Pickle
From sweet gherkins to salty dills, pickles are a popular companion to deli sandwiches and burgers. Pickles start out as cucumbers that are fermented, brined, or fresh-packed with vinegar. Spices, sugar, and salt are added. Eat with restraint: One medium whole sour pickle has 785 mg of sodium. That’s about a third of the salt you should get in a day. Luckily, just a few slices can add zip to your sandwich.
Hot Sauce’s Pepper Power
Want a lot of bang for your buck? One teaspoon of hot pepper sauce only has 0 calories and 124 mg of sodium. Use the spicy sauce to replace higher-calorie condiments. Drop it into soups and casseroles, or drizzle over eggs for a spicy flavor without adding fat. Hot sauces get their heat from peppers. If that’s what you want, you can also sprinkle red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper for no-salt spiciness.
Horseradish Brings the Heat
The ingredient in cocktail sauce that gives it a kick, horseradish works well with roast beef, chicken, and fish, and is often served with beets or cabbage. Add it to mashed or baked potatoes or deviled eggs for an extra punch. If you're using fresh horseradish root, keep it refrigerated until you use it, then scrub and peel it.
From Japan, wasabi is a root that’s related to mustard. Use it sparingly at first, or wowza! The hot, pungent flavor is similar to horseradish, but the heat vanishes quickly, leaving a slightly sweet taste. You might have seen it served with sushi, sashimi, or noodles. If you’re looking for some zing in your life, look for wasabi-flavored nuts, chips, dressings, cheese, or dried peas.
This sweet and fiery Asian sauce turns up the heat when it’s added to stir fry, eggs, pizza, meats, sauces, and soups. Made from sun-ripened jalapeno peppers ground into a paste, Sriracha was once only found in Asian markets. The garlicky and intense taste of Sriracha can be found as a flavor in chips and other foods,as its popularity has soared in recent years.
All Hail Hummus!
This superstar made from garbanzo beans (chickpeas) is a good source of protein. Serve with pita chips, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, or bell peppers. Or spread on sandwiches and wraps instead of mayo. To make your own, blend canned beans, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and a touch of tahini (sesame paste) or non-fat Greek yogurt. Rinse the beans first and you’ll cut the salt by 40%.
Go Greek With Tzatziki Sauce
Cool and refreshing, tzatziki sauce is made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, and a little bit of salt and pepper. A good source of calcium and protein, it’s usually served with Middle Eastern foods like gyro and falafel. Try on black bean burgers or use as a dip for veggies or chips. It also works wonders as a spread in sandwiches and wraps.
Salty Soy Sauce
Stop before you sprinkle. Made from preserved soy beans, soy sauce triggers umami – a fifth taste your tongue can discern – with its savory and meaty flavor. But sprinkle on a tablespoon and you’ll eat 960 mg of sodium, almost half of the recommended amount for the day. To cut salt, choose low-sodium soy sauce, but only use a little -- it’s still high in salt. One tablespoon has 575 mg of sodium, or a fourth of your daily limit.