Cut the Hidden Calories: Healthy and Tasty Condiment Switches

If you’ve watched an episode of MasterChef in the past few years, you will understand the level of importance the three judges place on ensuring food has plenty of flavour. The recent season has been no exception with a group of contestants who were all very skilled in creating rich, glossy sauces and thick creamy pesto.

But the challenge for people with diabetes, or those diagnosed with pre-diabetes,  is that often a tablespoon of sauce or pesto can be laden with up to 100 calories, not to mention fat, sugar or salt, and contain very little nutritional value.

Dietitian Kate Save recommends rather than completely cutting these sauces out of your diet altogether, try seeking healthier sauce alternatives or simply using smaller amounts.

“The key reason you should try to change the condiments you use is to reduce your discretional calorie intake to assist with weight management. It also allows you to increase the volume of healthier foods you’re eating that day,” Kate suggested.

“You don’t want to waste an extra 80 calories on a tablespoon of béarnaise sauce when you could have an extra cup of vegetables and feel fuller for longer,” she said.

Still not convinced that you can find healthier condiment alternatives that will excite your taste buds?  Consider these expert tips from Kate Save when preparing your next meal or when stocking up on supplies at the supermarket:

  1. Opt for ‘no added’ sugar varieties of bottled sauces and use in moderation

    Pre-packaged tomato, barbecue and sweet chilli sauces might be convenient, but they are typically loaded in sugar and salt, plus it’s easy to fall into the trap of consuming too much of them.

  2. Experiment with different varieties of mustard

    English, French, American and wholegrain mustard can add plenty of flavour and have less than one gram of sugar per serving (one tablespoon).

  3. Freshly chopped salsa can pack a flavour punch

    Mix it up with onion, fresh tomatoes, coriander as well as spices and garlic. Fresh salsa is also a great option to serve with fish and meat.

  4. Choose vinegar or olive oil for salad dressings

    For salad dressings, choose vinegars, such as red or white, or balsamic with a small amount of olive oil for a low sodium option to drizzle over vegetables. Olive oil based dressings and sauces are healthier choices than those based with cream or butter. The Mediterranean diet supports the use of olive oil as a base for dressings with about one to two tablespoons a day in place of other fats.

  5. Opt for coconut flavoured light evaporated milk over coconut milk

    The evaporated version will still provide the flavour you’re seeking, but it’s low in saturated fat and contains protein and calcium. Win-win! You can also replace béchamel sauce with a combination of low-fat cottage cheese, evaporated milk and parmesan cheese for a creamy sauce substitute which is low in fat and high in protein.

  6. Switch sticky sauces for spice

    Try to avoid sticky sauces like those found on honey chicken, lemon chicken and sweet and sour. In fact, you may not be aware that spices such as black pepper, cumin, chilli powder, oregano, thyme and cinnamon are all great flavour additions without adding the calories, as are fresh and dried herbs such as parsley, basil and coriander. If you are a lover of spicy foods, five spice powder is also great for adding Asian flavours while curry is good for Indian flavours.


Kate Save is an accredited Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist with 11 years’ experience helping patients manage their diabetes.

She has been engaged by Sanofi to provide regular expert commentary for Diabetes-Care. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the view of Sanofi. 


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