Welcome back to our series, Savvy Swaps, where we analyze popular store-bought products and offer up healthier alternatives, without any of the negative additives. Today, we’re tossing toxic condiments for safer, real-food-based healthy condiments: ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing and hot sauce.
As always, this series is meant to shed light on what’s in our food and encourage label-reading–it’s not about food shaming or throwing out everything in your pantry. Repeat after me: be aware, be informed, be balanced. And do what’s right for you.
If, after reading this story, you want to try a safer, healthier brand of salad dressing, you don't have to throw out every bottle currently in your fridge. Rather, next time you run out, simply replace that bottle with a better-for-you brand.
Celebrate progress, not perfection. That's what we're all about!
Walk through most grocery stores today and you’ll find most condiments are filled with loads of salt, refined sugars, unhealthy oils, artificial flavors and colors and toxic preservatives. Fortunately, there are a few brands out there offering clean, real-food-based, healthy condiments that are way better for you.
Take a look at some of the leading brands’ ingredients labels to get an idea of how some of these toxic condiments compare to their healthier counterparts:
- Heinz Ketchup: This classic ketchup brand is chockfull of high fructose corn syrup AND corn syrup (because one poison just wasn't enough), plus natural flavoring. It's also packed with sugar and salt, about 25% by weight (160 mg sodium and 4g sugar per tablespoon).
- Hellmann's Mayonnaise, Light: Think about what mayo is for a second: egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar and oil. At its core, before you season it with salt or mustard or herbs and spices, mayo is just 4 simple ingredients. And yet, Hellmann's has managed to squeeze over a dozen ingredients into their light mayo. And they're not just a healthy, natural blend of spices either. Rather this mayo is packed with soybean oil, modified food starch, high fructose corn syrup, sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA, and natural and artificial flavors, among other ills. Not only that, but even some of the real-food ingredients in this mayo, like eggs, are likely derived from antibiotic-treated animals AND if that weren't enough, is also includes ingredients sourced from GMOs.
- Wishbone Light Honey Dijon Dressing: Not only is this highly processed salad dressing full of soybean oil, refined sugar and corn syrup, it's also brimming with toxic additives, from Maltodextrin and Modified Corn Starch to Xanthan Gum, Caramel Color, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Benzoate and Calcium Disodium EDTA and natural flavor. To add fuel to the fire, some of these ingredients may be genetically engineered or derived from GMOs.
- Frank’s Buffalo Sauce: Though the ingredient list isn't too long, Frank's manages to pack a lot of ills into their list: Canola Oil, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate and Natural Butter Type Flavor. On top of that, this sauce contains over 20% of the daily max limit for sodium and some of these ingredients may be genetically engineered or derived from GMOs.
The Truth About Toxic Condiments
You may be wondering why some of these ingredients are even bad for you in the first place. To give you an idea, here are a few of the worst offenders from above:
- Natural Flavors: You may think that because these unspecific flavors are called “natural” that they're better for you than “artificial” flavors, but that would be wrong. Unfortunately, “natural” flavors are still created in a lab, the exact ingredients of which are undisclosed (red flag!) and often include things like MSG, animal products and allergens, like soy and gluten.
- Sodium benzoate: This preservative is commonly used to prevent the growth of microorganisms in acidic foods, but when combined with ascorbic or citric acid (Vitamin C), as it is in the Wish Bone salad dressing, a chemical reaction creates a small amount of benzene, which is a carcinogen linked to leukemia and other blood cancers.
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA): This preservative is used to help foods retain color, but it also irritates the skin, causes skin rashes and even asthma. It is on the FDA's toxicity watchlist, which you know can't be a good sign (especially considering how many other toxins they let slide).
- Soybean Oil: Soybean oil is an unhealthy oil that fits into the category of trans fats, partially-hydrogenated oils and other unhealthy oils, like canola (which is in Frank's), vegetable and sunflower oil. These oils have undergone an industrial process to lengthen shelf life, but they also cause serious inflammation, significant lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol and a rise in LDL (bad) cholesterol, clogging our arteries. These oils also cause insulin resistance and/or contribute to type 2 diabetes, among other health problems.
Shopping List: Healthy Condiments
And now for the good news!! Fortunately, there are a handful of brands out there who produce high-quality, organic, natural and delicious condiments that you can feel good about eating. Here are a few of my favorite healthy condiments:
- Cucina Antica Organic Ketchup: Not only does this ketchup contain no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup, but it's also made from organic ingredients, meaning there are fewer pesticides and toxins and no GMOs. Plus, there's less sugar and salt at 150 mg sodium and just 2 g sugar per tablespoon. Sir Kensington's Ketchup is another great option with a clean ingredient list, lower sugar and sodium (just 130 mg sodium and 2 g sugar per tablespoon) and it's non-GMO verified (although not organic).
- Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo (also available on Amazon): Rather than using unhealthy artificial trans fats, Primal Kitchen makes their mayo with hormone-balancing avocado oil. The rest of their clean ingredient list includes organic cage-free eggs, organic egg yolks, organic vinegar, sea salt and rosemary extract. How wonderful to be able to actually pronounce and understand each of the ingredients. I've been using this mayo for the past year and it's AWESOME!
- Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (also available on Amazon): The same brand making a healthy mayo also makes one of my favorite bottled salad dressings, perfect for nights when making your own just sounds like way too much work. Once again the ingredients are simple and clean: Avocado Oil, Filtered Water, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Stone Ground Mustard, Organic Honey, Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate and Sea Salt. I love that Primal Kitchen uses natural sweeteners like honey instead of refined sugars and corn syrups, too! This dressing is seriously delicious, the perfect balance of sweet and tangy.
- Tessemae’s All Natural Buffalo Sauce: I'll admit it. I was sad when I first realized Frank's was so bad for you. I love my hot sauce and buffalo wings are one of life's greatest pleasures. So the hallelujah chorus was definitely cued when I found a natural, real-food-based hot sauce that tasted just as good, if not better! The only ingredients you’ll find here are good-for-you oil (they use heart-healthy olive oil), Aged Red Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, Spices, Garlic and Organic Mustard. No preservatives or harmful chemicals. No “natural” flavors. Try it on my buffalo chicken meatballs!
If you'd like to learn more about toxic food additives, I recommend checking out EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. Go through your pantry and put some of your favorite condiments to the test–Fooducate and EWG's Food Scores rate your foods and give you an idea of whether they're safe or not.
Have you tried any of these condiments? Have another favorite? Share in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.