Condiments—are they good for you?

ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce

By Sarah Allen, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

One of the joys of summer is grilling. One thing that we may not think about is the nutrition of the condiments that we use for grilled foods. I looked at five condiments from my local grocery store and compared them. Take a look at what I found:

Tomato Ketchup Yellow Mustard Ranch Dressing Hot Sauce Barbecue Sauce
Serving 1 Tbsp. 1 tsp. 2 Tbsp. 1 tsp. 2 Tbsp.
Calories 20 0 140 0 35
Total Fat, g 0g 0g 14g 0g 0g
Sodium, mg 160mg 60mg 260mg 200mg 210mg
Carbohydrates (sugar), g 5g (4g) 0g (0g) 2g (1g) 0g (0g) 8g (7g)
Protein, g 0g 0g 0g 0g 0g
Vitamin A % DV** 2% 0% 0% 2% 4%
Vitamin C % DV** 2% 0% 2% 4% 0%
Calcium % DV** 0% 0% 0% N/A* 0%
Iron % DV** 0% 0% 0% N/A* 0%

*N/A: not mentioned on the nutrition label
**DV: Daily Value – calculated based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your needs may vary.

Most of these condiments are tasty, but it is important to keep in mind that they are:

  • High in sodium—this can cause high blood pressure
  • Have little to no protein
  • Have little to no vitamins and minerals
  • Have empty calories—this means calories that do not provide much nutrition

The serving size in the chart is what is listed on the label. If more than that is used, that would mean the sodium would be even higher. In general, we should eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you or your kids are like me when I was a kid, you may dunk everything in ketchup, ranch dressing, or barbecue sauce.

Consider using a small amount of these condiments and adding vegetables to your favorite foods to add more flavor (and color)! For example, add leafy lettuce, tomato and onion to your hamburger or chicken sandwich. Be sure to look for next week’s blog post about the cost of these condiments and some healthier ways to use them!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Sodium and Children

heartConcerns about sodium and its link to high blood pressure and heart disease are most commonly found among people who are middle age and older. However, according to the CDC, about 90% of US children ages 6-18 eat too much sodium daily and 1 in 6 children has high blood pressure (source).

When we think about the foods that kids tend to be most fond of this all makes sense. Pizza, cheese and chicken nuggets often include a great deal of sodium. So what can we do? Here are some tips that will help reduce the amount of sodium everyone in your family eats:

  1. Cook at home as much as possible. Visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe site for great home cooking ideas. Restaurant dishes are typically very high in sodium and in most restaurants you can’t see the nutrition information when you order. Many restaurants do have nutrition information on their websites, so you can compare dishes before you go.
  2. When cooking at home, try different spices and herbs instead of salt.
  3. Check the Nutrition Facts labels when you buy foods at the grocery store. Choose brands and types with lower sodium. Many will even be marked ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’.
  4. Eat more foods that are naturally low in sodium like fruits and vegetables.
  5. Model healthy eating for your family. If you choose healthy foods and tell your children why you make those choices, it is likely they will follow your lead in time.

If you are interested in more detailed information about sodium in children’s diets, the CDC has a helpful website. Visit

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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The Salty Six

February is often associated with valentines, sweets and all things lovey dovey. It’s also Heart Month which makes it a great time to think about your own heart health and the health of those you love. For the next three weeks, we will be blogging about sodium, its role in heart health and how you can protect yourself and those you love.

Your body needs sodium to work properly, but too much is bad for your health. It can raise your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke. People often think of putting down the salt shaker when they are trying to reduce their sodium, but in fact most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and dishes from restaurants.

This week we are proud to share the American Heart Association’s campaign called “The Salty Six”. This infographic highlights some of the common foods where large amounts of sodium hide. Next week we’ll hear from an expert on heart disease and stroke and her recommendations for eating well while reducing sodium.

the salty six

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Will Eating More Vegetables Cause you to Gain Weight?

vegetables variety

There is a new report out by the Economic Research Service called ‘Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep’ that really surprised me. It makes me question my mantra to always “eat more fruits and vegetables”.

In a nutshell, the report said that eating more fruit is associated with healthier weight but that Americans who eat more vegetables may actually increase their calorie and sodium intake. How can that be? Vegetables are naturally low in calories and sodium.

The report found that when many Americans eat vegetables they prepare them in ways that add calories and sodium while reducing fiber. So, if you eat more vegetables you will also get more fat, sodium, and calories.

I think the disconnect is that when I recommend eating more vegetables I am thinking roasted sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts, raw baby carrots, spinach salads, steamed green beans, raw broccoli and cauliflower florets, etc. But some people hear this recommendation and automatically think about the vegetables they are used to eating such as French fries, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, 7 layer salad, zucchini bread, hash browns, pizza with mushrooms, spinach dip, etc.

In the future I’m going to modify my message about vegetables.  Here are a few of my modifications:

1. Most of us need to eat twice as many vegetables as we do.  But all vegetables are not created equal. Different colored vegetables provide different nutrients. Try to eat more of the dark green and orange vegetables.  Most of us don’t need to eat more white potatoes which we often fry or eat with butter or cheese.  Tomatoes are another tricky one. Fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes with no salt added are healthier choices than tomatoes cooked into pizza and spaghetti sauce which are typically high in sodium.

Dark Green Vegetables
raw baby spinach
romaine lettuce
Orange Vegetables
baby carrots
baked sweet potato
Dry Beans*
and Peas

cooked black beans
cooked kidney beans
cooked pinto beans
Starchy Vegetables
cooked corn
baked potato
Other Vegetables
raw cauliflower
cooked green beans
iceberg lettuce
raw mushrooms
red onion
raw tomato
tomato juice
raw zucchini

2. Try to eat your vegetables without added calories and sodium.

Eat more of these…
Eat less of these…
Relish Trays or individual snack bags with raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms Creamed or au gratin vegetables
Spinach salad with reduced fat dressing Spinach dip
Roasted or grilled sweet potatoes or  Easy Roasted Vegetables White potatoes topped with generous amounts of butter and sour cream
Raw vegetable salads with a small amounts of reduced-fat dressing such as Creamy Cauliflower Salad or Summer Bounty Salad Raw broccoli/cauliflower salads with almost as much sour cream and mayo as vegetables
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta or Cheesy Pasta with Summer Vegetables Pastas with lots of cream, cheese, or  canned sauces with lots of sodium

3.  Pay attention to labels. The sodium varies greatly on canned vegetables and tomato-based sauces and soups. Compare the labels so you can choose one with less sodium. Calorie labeling will soon be available in restaurant chains with 20 or more establishments and you can ask managers to provide the information in local restaurants.

Sodium and High Blood Pressure – You can Make a Change Today!

heart healthyDo you or someone you know have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease? It is very likely your answer is “yes”, given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. High blood pressure affects approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States and more than half of Americans with high blood pressure do not have it under control. Foods high in sodium are a big concern for managing blood pressure.

Sodium plays an important role in regulating fluid balance, nerve function and muscle contraction within the body. We need it, but most of us get too much. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people take in no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon). However, about half of us should only consume 1500 mg or 2/3 teaspoon.  The reduced recommendation is for the following people:

  • African Americans
  • Anyone over age 51
  • Those diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease

The average American consumes almost twice the recommended amount. Too much sodium is not healthy, but have you ever wondered what the science is behind this? Here’s a quick science lesson!

When an excessive amount of sodium is consumed, there is an increased number of particles in the blood stream, water moves from the cells to the blood stream trying to create a fluid balance. This increased volume circulating in the blood stream increases pressure on artery walls and makes your heart work harder. High blood pressure is also called hypertension and it is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

How can you reduce the amount of sodium you consume daily?

  • 1-13 blog chartDon’t add salt to your food.
  • Choose frozen or fresh vegetables as opposed to canned.
  • Choose low-sodium or no salt added versions of canned products. Many are the same price as their higher sodium counterparts.
  • Rinse canned vegetables and beans.
  • Cook foods from scratch. Restaurant food and convenience meals tend to have more sodium than those you prepare yourself.
  • Experiment with adding flavor to dishes by using dried herbs and spices such as basil, thyme, parsley or cayenne pepper instead of salt.

Have fun with it! If your new year’s resolution is to achieve a healthier lifestyle, reducing your sodium intake is an easy way to work toward that goal.


Kid Tested Homemade Chicken Tenders

Almost every child I know loves chicken tenders…it might be because they can pick them up with their fingers, or it might be they like dipping them. Actually I like finger food and dipping myself. What I don’t like about the prepared chicken nuggets is the amount of fat and sodium you get along with the chicken. The chicken tenders recipe we feature this month has a sauce you mix up to dip the chicken in, then coat with pretzel or cereal crumbs, and bake—instead of fry. The chart below compares the cost and nutrition of these tenders compared to a chain fast food outlet. You’ll note from the chart that our tenders provide more food (look at the weight) for much less fat and sodium and more protein. If you choose a whole grain cereal as the coating, you could add some fiber and other nutrients.

Since I have the oven on, I start the meal by putting some potatoes in to bake (my favorite is baked sweet potatoes). Prepare the chicken tenders and while they are baking make a salad!


 -pointers from Peggy

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