Condiments: How to Include Them in Your Diabetes Meal Plan

When it comes to food and diabetes, most people think bland and boring. Those little extras like salad dressing, ketchup, mayo, mustard, relish and salsa that make our taste buds dance are mistakenly banned from the diet. It’s true if you’re not careful and using them mindlessly; those little flavor enhancers can bankrupt your calorie, carbohydrate, fat and sodium budgets. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way—it’s really a matter of quantity and quality. The following tips will help you put condiments back on your table.

Control portions. Many condiments, when used sparingly, provide so few calories, fat, and carbohydrate, that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) list them as “free food.” According to the ADA, free food is one that contains less than 20 calories or less than 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving. For example, one tablespoon yellow mustard, salsa, horseradish or ketchup is considered free.

Read the label. Reading the ingredient list on the food label is key to finding out what might be lurking in your condiments. Ingredients used in the greatest amounts are listed first, followed by those used in smaller quantities. Added sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup can be found—often as the first ingredient, in ketchup, honey mustard, sweet relish and many salad dressings. You may also see artificial color in salad dressings, honey mustard, and other condiments. Always refer to the actual package for the most complete and accurate ingredient information.

Go for natural. When you are shopping for condiments, look for natural or organic varieties. Typically, organic condiments don’t have artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup added to them. But, they may have added sugar and be high in fat and sodium. So be sure to read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel.

Reduce it. To save on fat calories, choose “light,” “reduced-fat,” “low calorie,” or “fat-free salad dressings and mayonnaise. These dressings have up to 5 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon compared to their regular counterparts with zero carbohydrates. The calorie difference is