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Is Tomato Ketchup a Healthy Condiment?

Nearly every burger consumed in the U.S. comes with your standard lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup. Sure, there's the gourmet burgers out there now that have that added extra of house-made sauces, specialty spreads and heavens knows what else, right?!


As a Registered Dietitian, I am still 100% in support of choosing the lower-calorie option of the American staples (ketchup and mustard) over high-calorie Chipotle Mayo or Horseradish Cheese spreads. Condiments are hidden calories that can definitely add up over time. However, when looking at total calorie content, ketchup and mustard are still very low on the totem pole.

While mustard is still the lowest calorie option, ketchup comes in at a close second. The issue lies in the sugar content variation. When purchasing store brought brands, ketchup can be loaded with added sugars that impart extra sweetness which makes many crave and consume more than the recommended serving of one tablespoon.

One recommendation is to ditch the store bought brands and make your own. There are a plethora of simple, super healthy recipes on the web from Registered Dietitians that have great flavor without the added sugar. Plus, when making your own, you can control the sodium and really tailor its flavor to your own taste preferences. For instance, kick it up a notch and infuse with a little garlic or other super spices like cayenne to push your metabolism into over drive J.

Bottom Line: Ketchup is not something to fear. Compared to other high calorie, high fat condiments available today, it's a better alternative for your burger, hot dog and fries. Be mindful of portion control and limit yourself to one or two packets, dumping piles on your fries will end up costing you nearly 150 extra calories for your entire burger and fry combo. If you're feeling creative, I highly suggest taking out your kitchen utensils and whipping up a batch of your own; trust me, you'll never buy store bought again!


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Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, is a San Diego based dietitian. She is owner of Elizabeth Shaw Consulting Services, in which she offers individual, corporate and food service consulting services. She an adjunct professor in Nutrition at San Diego Mesa Community College and is the Dining Dietitian for the University of California San Diego. Read her blog, Simple-Swaps, and connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.

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