To this day, I remember the first time I ever saw someone apply Dijon Mustard to a hard-boiled egg. It was some 30 years ago, in France and I found it as perplexing as people from many parts of the world would find sweet tea.
Now, as those of you who have been following my analysis of my personal weight-loss regiment know, I love eggs pretty much any way they can be cooked – and I am not afraid of a runny yolks. So, I have eaten them pretty much anyway they can be prepared and as used in various dishes, had obviously eaten egg salad with more mustard than mayonnaise, but I had never seen that particular combination. It was terrific and helped open my eyes to the world of possibility with various mustards, and later, to the value of condiments; you know, those things many are most acquainted with in sealed packages tossed in the bottom of fast-food bags.
But, used properly condiments can be an important part of a healthy diet, particularly for singles because their application is quick and easy and most condiments have a long shelf life. However, not all condiments are built the same and while some are healthy or at least not horribly unhealthy, others are laden with things best to avoid such as unhealthy fats and sugars. Personally, I've never been a big fan of most common condiments but as I have read and researched, I've discovered that their use can bring lots of flavor with little downside in many cases.
Mustards, for example, should be a staple in any healthy eater's repertoire. Low in calories and often including healthy things like turmeric and vinegar, they pack zesty taste that can liven up more than just hard-boiled eggs! Switch mustard out for all or a majority of the usual mayonnaise and tuna or chicken salad becomes a lot healthier, and sandwiches and salad dressings become much more exciting with a mustard blast. There is a whole world of different mustards to explore out there and find which one works for which application. Watch for sugar in honey mustards and also for mustard-mayo combinations, but it's otherwise hard to go wrong with this delicious condiment. Vinegars, hot sauces, pickle juice and lemon and lime juice are also winners, but keep an eye out for sugar content. Salsa might be the healthiest and most diverse condiment and it was big news a few years ago when sales of this Latin staple exceeded those of all-American ketchup. Salsa, particularly homemade, is loaded with things that are generally considered good for us and lacks much that is less good for us. Watch for added sugar and fats – neither of which is necessary to make a good salsa – but otherwise, it can make anything from scrambled eggs to veggie burgers into culinary winners. But we will discuss salsas more in the near future.
Ketchup and mayonnaise are the other major American condiments and while each has its place, each also has perils. Commercial mayonnaise is best to avoid and is loaded with fat. Ketchup errs in the sugar department. Consider making your own olive-oil based mayonnaise if you can't live without the creamy goodness and plenty of the healthy condiments liven up fries as easily as ketchup.
Plenty of gourmet markets and even average supermarkets now carry a much wider array of condiments than they did in the past, so it's well worth reading some labels, trying out some flavor profiles and deciding how these little culinary "supplements" can be stars of your healthy eating routine.
-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. Neither a medical nor a nutrition expert, he shares his personal weight loss journey exclusively with Oklahoma Magazine readers. Reach him at [email protected].