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November 17, 2019

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Use this, not that: Your guide to healthier toppings


You took the plunge and decided to be more conscious about what you eat. You’re meal prepping healthy salads. Lettuce-wrapped sandwiches. An array of veggies and fruits for snacks. But are you still having trouble cutting weight and feeling healthier? The truth might be in your toppings. Dressings, dips and condiments add extra calories, salt, sugar and not-so-good fat. So how do you avoid the extra bulk without your food tasting bland? Try these easy swaps (and some other easy health tricks) for improving your meals and overall well-being.

Barbecue sauce

Similar to ketchup, barbecue sauce contains a lot of sugar—12 grams per two tablespoons. Barbecue sauces also get that maroon color from caramel coloring, which has been labeled as a carcinogen.

The swap: While the flavor can be hard to match when making your own, you can swap by buying a small-batch brand, like Trader Joe’s Bold and Smoky Sauce, Annie’s Naturals Maple BBQ Sauce or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sauce.

Low-fat/low-calorie dressings

You think you’re doing your body good by cutting back on those calories and fats, but really, low-cal and low-fat dressings have extra sugar, and some fat helps your body absorb the vitamins and minerals in your salad.

The swap: Greek yogurt-based dressings, or try combining olive oil and balsamic vinegar (2:1 ratio) for a healthy-fat dressing.

Honey mustard

This sweet-salty combo is just not good for your health and also has tons of sugar and salt. We know, we know, it’s the perfect topping on your sandwich.

The swap: Dijon mustard (add just a tad of your own honey) or the combo of pesto and hummus can be just as satisfying.

Ranch dressing

Notice a trend?

Most dressings and condiments aren’t great for you because of the amount of sugar and salt they contain. Do you have a series sweet tooth? Or a constant craving for a salty snack? At far right are signs that you might be having too much of either.

You make a big salad filled with leafy greens and then destroy it by adding ranch—the sneaky topping with more than 70 calories and one gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.

The swap: If you like the creaminess of ranch, try using tahini instead. It’s made from ground sesame seeds and is high in good, unsaturated fats. You can dilute tahini with a 1:1 water ratio.

Soy sauce

It may be hard to picture sushi without the salty goodness of soy sauce, but this is another one loaded with sugar and salt (ever notice the bloat after a sushi binge?). One tablespoon of soy sauce has about 840 milligrams of salt, more than half of what you should be aiming for in your daily consumption.

The swap: Try amino acids, which taste exactly the same.


How many of us actually measure out a tablespoon of ketchup when we’re eating french fries? One tiny serving of ketchup has the equivalent of one packet of sugar. While finding swaps can be hard, you can look for lower-salt and -sugar ketchups, or opt for organic small-batch brands.

The swap: Homemade salsa or homemade ketchup. Making your own is easier than you’d think.

Or, go the extra mile: Make your own ketchup!

Blend together:

• a jar of organic, unsweetened tomato paste

• 1 tsp onion powder

• 1/2 tsp turmeric

• 1/2 tsp paprika

• 1 tsp Himalayan salt

• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

• 1/4 cup water


A two-tablespoon serving has 200 calories. Most brands make their mayo with soybean oil, which is genetically modified from soy beans and is linked to diabetes and obesity.

The swap: Try hummus or mashed avocado with Himalayan sea salt. You can also look for mayo made with avocado or olive oil.

Or, go the extra mile: Make your own mayo!

Combine the following ingredients, blend together and store in the refrigerator for up to four weeks:

• 1 cup avocado oil

• 1 large egg

• 1 tsp lemon juice

• 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

• 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Hot sauce

Put it on wings, eggs, fries—for those who love a kick to their food, this seems like a no-brainer. But with 200 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon (the American Heart Association recommends not eating more than 1,500 milligrams a day), it can be a danger.

The swap: Unless you’re measuring out teaspoons, you’re better off adding hot pepper flakes, jalapeños or chilies to your food. Raw peppers are amazing for your health.

Hoisin sauce

Just like barbecue sauce, hoisin adds a sugar bomb to your chopsticks. Most have gluten as well, which could affect your stomach.

The swap: Try oyster sauce, which has half the sugar.

Sour cream

This saturated fat-filled condiment can clog arteries and adds extra calories to simple dishes.

The swap: Try unflavored Greek yogurt. Sounds crazy but your tacos won’t even know the difference.

Signs you are eating too much sugar

1. Your skin is breaking out.

2. You’ve noticed some extra pounds. A diet high in sugar is the quickest way to put on weight and raise your cholesterol levels. The World Health Organization recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day. Most Americans consume 22.

3. You regularly feel sluggish. Sugar crashes are real. If you have a breakfast with sneaky sugars (dairy yogurt and cereal) you may feel exhausted before noon. Read your ingredients list and swap for a protein-rich breakfast, like eggs and steel-cut oats.

4. Your dentist visits aren’t fun. When your body consumes sugars and carbs, it releases an acid that combines with your saliva to produce plaque. If you’re not brushing and flossing well enough, cavities and tooth decay occur.

5. You never feel full. Sugar burns through our bodies, leaving us running on empty more quickly. Avoid sodas, lattes and processed foods, and swap for fruit-infused water and protein-rich foods.

Signs you are eating too much salt

1. You’re constantly dehydrated. Too much salt zaps your fluid levels.

2. You’re bloated. Salt makes you retain water, making your midsection, legs and even face look bloated.

3. You often have headaches. This goes back to your fluid levels. Too much salt and not enough water is bound to cause a headache.

4. You have stomach issues. Too much salt can throw off the good bacteria in your body, giving you stomach ulcers and even kidney stones.

5. You have high blood pressure. Many with high blood pressure or hypertension also consume too much salt. The recommended amount of sodium for those suffering from high blood pressure is 2,300 milligrams. Avoid condiments listed at right, processed foods and eating out.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.