Diabetes and Condiments: 7 Choices to Work into Your Diabetes Meal Plan?
Most people living with diabetes are well aware of how important diet is to managing blood sugar. The foods we consume directly impact our blood sugar level, and, therefore, how easy it is to effectively manage our diabetes. But there’s one group of foods that can be a little tricky to manage because its members aren’t exactly part of a meal. They’re more along the lines of meal toppers. Of course, we’re talking about condiments.
Condiments are a big deal. They add that extra burst of flavor that makes a meal or favorite side dish pop. They bring color and texture to everything from proteins to veggies. They make a lot of what’s on our plate taste a whole lot better. Condiments also, however, usually contain carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar, and, therefore, need to be accounted for as part of a diabetes-healthy meal plan.
Paying close attention to condiments is part of life with diabetes. But like with most foods, using condiments is more about managing them than avoiding any specific types altogether. So, here are some popular and not-so-popular condiments that you can safely add to your meal plan.
First – A Hint. Start with the Nutrition Label.
The first place to start with condiments is the nutritional label. After all, condiments contribute to the carbohydrates and sugars you’re already eating, so it’s good to know what’s in that bottle. First, look at what’s inside – how many grams of salt, sugar, and carbs per serving size. Then, look at the serving size! These can be surprisingly small – to the point that they are unrealistic in terms of average consumption. This is where many people with diabetes fall into trouble. For example, if the serving size says 1 tablespoon, but it takes four tablespoons to make any real sense with a meal – it’s easy to get out of whack. So, check your labels carefully to be sure exactly what you’re getting.
7 Great Condiments for Diabetics
You may have heard some concern about ketchup. That’s likely due to a good amount of salt and sugar, as well as the serving size versus actual amount debacle we just pointed out. A tablespoon of ketchup has just under 5 grams of carbs. If you can limit yourself to that (which is easier said than done) it shouldn’t be enough to throw your blood sugar off. If you can’t, look for zero-sugar-added ketchup. It’s out there and usually has roughly 1 carb per tablespoon. You still don’t want to go overboard but you do get a little extra leeway.
Mustard is a bit of an outlier because there are so many different forms – original yellow, spicy, Dijon, honey mustard – the list goes on. But for the most part, mustard is big on flavor and pretty low in carbohydrates, making it a good choice for those with diabetes looking to keep glucose levels in check. Typical yellow mustard only has about 0.6 grams of carbs and spicy brown mustard has a whopping 0 grams of carbs. The kicker is honey mustard, coming in at up to 6 grams of carbs in a single tablespoon. Again, a touch is okay but if you can you’re better off with another type of mustard.
Don’t go for the canned or jarred salsa if you can avoid it. Make your own! It’s easy. Just dice up some tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, and cilantro and add just a dash of salt (or not). Now, you have a diabetes healthy option, and you know exactly what went into it because you put it there. Plus, salsa isn’t just for chips. It’s great on grilled chicken and fish, even eggs. Homemade salsa is a great way to add healthy zest to your healthy meals.
Most vinegars are low in calories and carbohydrates and contain little or no salt. So, you could go with an apple cider or red vinegar if you prefer, but for us, balsamic is the ticket. Sprinkle it on potatoes, salads, fresh cut cucumbers, carrots or other veggies and you’ve got a diabetes-friendly snack with a serious kick of flavor. Feel free to add other herbs and spices like pepper, basil, and cilantro to customize your balsamic condiment. You can even steep hot peppers in the vinegar to add a little heat.
Sweet Pickle Relish
The best thing about this classic condiment is the wallop of sweet and tangy flavor it delivers in just a small amount. Sweet pickle relish contains about 5 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, making it a relatively healthy option all-around. Be sure to check the salt content as it can be high. But again, you don’t need a lot of relish to get a whole lot of flavor. It’s great on all-beef hot dogs (with a dab of mustard!), in tuna fish salad, even on a grilled filet of salmon. Try to stick with a tablespoon, which packs a lot of flavor, and enjoy.
Horseradish is one of those intense flavors that you either like or dislike. If you happen to be on the like side, it’s a great addition to your diabetes-healthy condiment list. Horseradish only contains about 2 grams of carbs in a tablespoon serving, so it really shouldn’t impact blood sugar very much. Plus, horseradish is versatile and great with just about anything – meat, fish, and poultry. You can add it to homemade marinades or just put it on the side of the plate and use as you like. There is one caveat. Many horseradish-based products found on supermarket shelves will add a lot of salt or are high in fat. Read those labels carefully to know what you’re getting.
Yep, mayonnaise is a go with some caution. It’s not the carbs at all that pose a problem with mayo – it has less than one carb per tablespoon. But it packs a punch when it comes to fat, and worse, saturated fat, so you should not enjoy beyond that single serving. In fact, it’s a good idea to try to use less. Also, go with an olive oil-based mayonnaise which contains healthy fats. We added mayo to our list not necessarily because it’s the best choice, but to point out that you can enjoy it with a little self-control.
Other Condiment Options
Who says you have to use so-called condiments as your condiments? There are other options out there that can add the delicious flavor boost you’re looking for without the unwanted carbs, fats, and sugars found in many popular condiments. Here are a few ideas to consider:
A Squeeze of Lemon or Lime
These citrus beauties can add some tart deliciousness to fish, chicken, veggies and even corn chips without adding any calories or carbohydrates.
Smashed or Whipped Avocado
Looking for an alternative to mayonnaise that won’t limit you to a tiny dollop? Whip up some fresh avocado and you’ve got a spread that’s great for sandwiches or as a topper to chicken and fish.
A little olive oil is packed with healthy unsaturated fats and with a little pepper and herbs is fabulous with whole-grain bread. You won’t need any butter or margarine! If you like, do the Italian thing and add a little balsamic vinegar.
Plain Low-Fat Greek Yogurt
Low on carbs and fat, low-fat Greek yogurt is great on fruit, salad, poultry, and beef. Add just a dash of salt, along with mint or other herbs for a little added flavor.
Make it yourself with some extra-virgin olive oil, finely chopped parsley, black pepper, oregano, vinegar, maybe some red pepper flakes. There are plenty of recipes online and chimichurri is delicious on so many foods – beef, chicken, grilled fish, potatoes, and more.
Condiments are certainly not off limits for those with diabetes. In fact, some can even be healthy additions to your meal plan. The key is knowing what you’re putting into your body, acting responsibly, and using moderation when it’s prudent. Sound familiar? It should because that’s how it goes with most aspects of diabetes management.