Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Condiment Conundrum

Happy happy hump day everyone! :)

Wheeeeew. Yesterday was a stressful day if I've ever had one.  I didn't have time to squeeze in a workout, but I'm pretty sure I burned off enough steam running around town all day.  It was unfortunately not the happiest day of them all for me either, so I was glad to come home just to decompress, cook dinner (which always seems to relax me), catch up on some DVR (Bethenny Ever After, my favorite!), and get a great night's sleep.

Since I was a little down in the dumps, Justin brought these beauties home with him:

So sweet! :)

I instantly felt better. There is nothing I love more than fresh, colorful flowers in our kitchen.

We had BBQ meatloaf for dinner last night, another booty-kicking recipe from peanut butter fingers.  We ate so fast that I didn't get a chance to take any pictures, but don't worry, it will definitely be making a repeat performance sometime soon! ;)

Today I thought I would tackle a very thought-provoking reader's request -- the condiment "conundrum." {Thanks Aimmee for the great idea!}

Truth be told, when I mentioned to Justin that I would be writing on this topic, he kinda gave me the stank eye.

He had a point.

I'm going to go ahead and admit that I am not exactly qualified to advise you all on healthy eating when it comes to condiments, because I, myself, tend to abuse them.

So, I'm writing this post not just to share some valuable tips with you all, but also as a peverbial "note-to-self."

I love me some condiments.

It is no coincidence that my favorite restaurant in Chicago dishes up 8 dipping sauces with their entrees.

I blame this addiction on college.  I may not remember much about what I learned in college, but one lesson has sure stuck with me: just about everything tastes 100 times better smothered in Ranch dressing.

I also learned that cheese pizza goes particularly well dipped in nacho cheese sauce.

I also learned that french fries taste amazing if you actually dip them in Ketchup mixed with Ranch dressing.

Did I mention that anything goes well with Ranch dressing??

I'm pretty sure by now I either have you: A) sufficiently grossed out, or B) nodding your head and daydreaming about many a late night munchie fest.

Some of my condiment habits definitely followed me from college.  I have pretty much eliminated the late night aspect, but I still have quite the stash that I pull out all too often.

It looks a little ree-diculous when you actually document this with a picture.

Since I am clearly no expert, I did a little research and put some extra thought into the things that i DO actually do to slash the condiment calories but keep the flavor.

Let's start with some healthy "swaps" for the most popular, but least waistline friendly, condiments...

If you're a mayo maniac: It is no secret that mayonnaise is a disaster for anyone watching what they eat.  Yet, sometimes, a good mayo can make a sandwich.

Smart swap: Try spreading hummus on your sandwich instead of mayo. You can have about twice the amount for 1/2 the calories! Hummus is made from garbanzo + pinto beans with some olive oil and spices. It will also give you some extra protein, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.  For anyone who has not jumped on the Hummus train yet, you gotta give it a try, it is strangely addicting!

If you're a ketchup queen: This one is pretty tough, because nothing is as Amuuurican and some good 'ole ketchup on a burger, hot dog, french fries, I could go on.  The problem is that Ketchup is filled with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and sodium.  

Smart Swap: One idea to cut the ketchup intake is to try swapping in some salsa! Instant fiesta, less calories! :) 

My favorite salsa is Garden Fresh Gourmet's Jack's Special Salsa in Medium: 

This stuff is freaky fresh. 

If you find yourself eating a lot of ketchup (or BBQ sauce, etc.) on chicken, try marinating your meat in balsamic vinaigrette before you cook it up.  This will give you a lot more flavor so you are less tempted to douse your meat in other condiments 

If you're a sour cream sista: I find myself using a lot of sour cream either in recipes or on top of some of my favorite dishes (helllllo enchiladas!). I try to use light sour cream, because, to me, it tastes the exact same! I always buy Daisy Light sour cream.  

Smart Swap: Even the light sour cream isn't exactly waistline friendly, in excess. One tip I have heard, and totally believe, is that plain greek yogurt can be used as a healthy substitute for sour cream. This really cuts down on the fat and calories, and gives you a huge boost of protein.  You guys might remember that the first time I tried greek yogurt, I "accidentally" got the plain flavor, and was turned off when it tasted exactly like sour cream (I was expecting something sweet!).  I vow to use plain greek yogurt the next time I make enchiladas, so I will let you know how it goes! :) 

If you're a Ranch radical: This is the motherload. Maybe it's just a Midwestern thing, but I completely over-use Ranch dressing, and I do not even put it on salads! One good thing, I have finally found a "light" ranch that tastes like the real thing but is lower in fat & calories -- Hidden Valley Light Ranch.  I have also started trying buying the yogurt-based ranch dressings (usually found where the pre-packaged salads are). 

Smart Swap: An interesting tip I found is that you can swap in balsamic vinaigrette instead of ranch on many things. You all know that I always opt for balsamic on my salads, but apparently it also makes a great dipping sauce for things like french fries. Another idea if you enjoy dipping your veggies into ranch dressing is to switch it out for hummus.  I had this little number as a snack last night: 

Still creamy and very satisfying! 

Some general tips for condiment control that I try to exercise as often as possible...

1) You CAN have it all, just not all at once! This is a great tip for healthy eating that I took from the book, Naturally Thin. Don't deprive yourself of the condiments you love, just don't eat them all together (ehheemm ketchup mixed with ranch). Pick a reasonable serving of 1 satisfying sauce, instead of 8, and enjoy it to the fullest! 

2) BYOB. I think this tip is particularly smart for things like salad dressing. When I talked about my lunches before, I told you guys that I keep a bottle of light balsamic dressing in the fridge at work, so that I am not tempted to douse my greens in the crazy creamy dressing that comes with my favorite salad. This is a great way to prepare for battle when it comes to all condiments. 

3) Don't take the bottles with you to the table. This is so obvious, but I really need to work on this tip. Serve your plate up in the kitchen, condiments and all, and do not bring that bottle to the table!! You know you are just going to be tempted to re-plensish when you've scraped every last drop of ketchup off your plate. Easy access = recipe for disaster! 

4) Balance out that bank account.  Another very valuable tip from Naturally Thin.  If you know you're going to eating a meal that involves lots of sugary condiments, try to balance out the trouble with the rest of your meals that day. For example, if you're going to a BBQ that night, and are looking forward to a burger + fries + globbs of ketchup, try to minimize the carbs and sugar at breakfast and lunch. It's all about the balance! 

I hope you guys find some of these ideas and tips helpful.  I'm going to try to be mindful of this post when I'm at IU this weekend and faced with many a late night muchie that involves my favorite dipping sauces! :) 

Something to talk about: What condiment can you just not live without? What's your favorite "swap"? What tip(s) do you have for condiment control? 

Have a fantastic day, everyone! 




  1. I like to take fat free plain greek yogurt and mix in a packet of the fat free ranch seasoning. It makes a really creamy and yummy ranch dip that has a lot less calories than regular ranch dip! Tastes great with celery and carrots.

  2. Such a good idea, kinsey! :) I'm definitely going to try that!

  3. and now i am day dreaming about pizza express......

  4. I will definitely be calling them up this weekend :)