The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Condiments

Calorie Counts for Ketchup, Mustard, and More

Traditionally, when we think of condiments, we think of mayo and mustard—they're standard, classic sandwich toppers. Today, the condiment options are much more robust. From flavored mustard to a plethora of barbecue sauces, the options are plentiful and probably a bit confusing.

In addition to toppers, condiments are used in cooking to marinate, tenderize protein, boost flavor, and add an appeal to the palate. While most condiments don't provide much nutrition to your diet, some do contain healthy ingredients such as herbs, spices, ​heart-healthy fats, and antioxidants.

Regardless of whether you choose a healthy or not-so-healthy condiment, it's wise not to drown your food in it. Instead, stick to the serving size. 

The Healthiest Condiments to Add to Your Food

The condiments that made it to the healthiest list are those that are low in calories and unhealthy fat. They are also made with higher quality, less processed ingredients that provide health benefits. 


mustard in a dish with a knife
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Mustard is a very low-calorie (only 5 calories in one teaspoon), low-carbohydrate, and fat-free condiment that can amp up the flavor of food by adding a spicy kick. Most traditional mustards, both yellow and spicy, are made of distilled vinegar, garlic powder, mustard seed, onion powder, salt, spices, and turmeric.

This means that mustard contains negligible calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrate in one serving. In addition, studies have shown that turmeric may provide health benefits. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin.

Preclinical studies suggest that curcumin can act as an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties. Flavored mustard, such as ​honey dijon, can contain added sugar, therefore, make sure to always read the label before eating.

According to the USDA, 1 teaspoon (5g) of spicy mustard contains 5 calories, 60mg sodium, and no fat, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, or sugar.


glass jars of vinegar on a marble countertop
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Whether balsamic, white wine, or apple cider, vinegar can be used to top sandwiches, dress salads, side dishes, and marinate foods. This condiment is virtually calorie-free (ranging from 0 calories to 10 calories per tablespoon) and contains no sodium.

Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar specifically may reduce fasting blood sugar in people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Hot Sauce

hot sauce in a dish with a spoon
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Hot sauce, including original Tabasco and Sriracha sauce, is made from red chili peppers, which give it its spicy flavor. Studies suggest that adding spice to your food can be satiating and help to curb your appetite and possibly speed up your metabolism.

Read labels before pouring, as Sriracha can contain sugar. Try topping your egg scramble, vegetables, or whole grains with a dash of hot sauce.

Pico de Gallo

pico de gallo in a bowl with wooden spoon
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

This low calorie, low-fat, tasty and nutrient-dense salsa can zest up any meal. Traditionally made with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and lime, you can easily make your own to save on sodium.

Top your salad, vegetables, or protein with salsa to add flavor. Or, simply dip fresh, raw vegetables in it as a snack.


ketchup in a small dish
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Ketchup clocks in at 17 calories, 5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of carbohydrate in one tablespoon. Because of its carbohydrate and sugar content, ketchup is a condiment that needs to be portion-controlled, especially for people with diabetes who are following a modified carbohydrate diet.

However, if you can stick to one portion and choose a type of ketchup that is not made with high fructose corn syrup, then it can be included in a healthy meal plan, particularly if you are replacing a higher-calorie and fat item such as creamy dressing or sour cream.

Unhealthiest Condiment Choices

The items on the unhealthiest pick list are high in calories, sodium, fat, and/or sugar for a small serving. If you use these items frequently, you may want to cut back and try replacing them with one of the condiments on the healthy list.

Creamy Salad Dressing

creamy salad dressing in a bowl with spoon
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Creamy salad dressing made with added sugar, sour cream, mayonnaise, and egg yolks is rich in calories, sugar, and saturated fat. A small serving can tack on a ton of calories.

For example, two tablespoons of store-bought creamy Caesar dressing contains 160 calories and 17 grams of fat. Vinaigrette contains 120 calories and 9 grams of fat.


mayonnaise in a bowl with knife
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The main reason mayonnaise is on this list is because it is extremely high in calories for a small portion. Although it is made from whole ingredients such as egg yolks, olive oil, and vinegar, one tablespoon of mayonnaise can cost you 94 calories and 10 grams of fat.

And while much of the fat is unsaturated (the healthy kind), it can be hard to portion control this condiment, which can lead to excess calorie intake. If you are looking to manage your weight, then mayonnaise is an easy ingredient to omit from your diet to reduce your overall calorie intake.

Replace mayonnaise with mustard when topping sandwiches for a lower-calorie alternative or use a small amount of avocado or hummus to make tuna or egg salad for a healthier fat swap.

Barbecue Sauce

barbecue sauce in a bowl with spoon
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Barbecue sauce is moderate in calories, containing about 60 in two tablespoons, but it also contains a large amount of sodium and sugar in one serving. Most brands range from about 10 to 13 g of sugar (equivalent to 3 teaspoons of sugar) and 280 to 350 mg of sodium.

Another issue with barbecue sauce is that most people don't adhere to the serving size, which is two tablespoons. So, if you are trying to watch your calorie and sugar intake and are going to use barbecue sauce, aim to stick to one serving.

Sour Cream

sour cream in a bowl with spoon
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The calories and fat in sour cream can add up quickly. With 60 calories and 6 grams of fat in two tablespoons, this condiment is one that can likely put you over your calorie budget. In addition, about half of the fat in sour cream is saturated. A diet rich in saturated fat has been linked with heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

If you are looking to find a good substitute for sour cream, try a tablespoon or two or low-fat or non-fat plain Greek yogurt. The tangy flavor will suit your craving and as a bonus, you'll get more calcium (which is good for your bones), as well as more filling protein. 

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Abrahams S, Haylett WL, Johnson G, Carr JA, Bardien S. Antioxidant effects of curcumin in models of neurodegeneration, aging, oxidative and nitrosative stress: A review. Neuroscience. 2019;406:1-21. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.02.020

  2. Spicy brown mustard. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  3. Johnston CS, Quagliano S, White S. Vinegar ingestion at mealtime reduced fasting blood glucose concentrations in healthy adults at risk for type 2 diabetes. J Funct Foods. 2013;5(4):2007-2011. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2013.08.003

  4. Ketchup. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  5. Caesar dressing. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  6. Vinaigrette. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  7. Mayonnaise. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  8. Sour cream, regular. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, counseling patients with diabetes. Barbie was previously the Advanced Nutrition Coordinator for the Mount Sinai Diabetes and Cardiovascular Alliance and worked in pediatric endocrinology at The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center.