Life Healthy Eating

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Homemade condiments for you to relish this summer season

Making your own, healthier condiments can help cut your hidden sugar and salt intake, writes Rozanne Stevens

Rozanne Stevens

Published 10/06/2014 | 02:30

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Rozanne Stevens

THE days are hotting up and we are preparing our white wibbly wobbly bodies for our sunshine holidays.

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With the first ray of sun, panicked people are embarking on their annual bikini ready diet, cutting back on the junk and selecting healthier foods.

Sugar
Ketchup can be the worst offender for high sugar levels, with almost 25% of the calories coming from sugar.

But this can be tricky as we navigate the buffets of food at barbecues, summer parties and functions.

The obvious high calorie culprits can be avoided, but what about the secret sabotagers? Like sugar – the lead villain in our story of the fight against the flab.

Did you know that the big squirt of ketchup on your low fat turkey burger with salad on wholewheat bun could be delivering up to half a tablespoon of sugar straight to the belly you're trying to shed? You're trying to make healthier choices, but your favourite condiments could be ruining the effort.

There are, of course, low sugar and low salt brands of ketchup on the market, but there are several other ingredients too that you need to look out for closely on your condiment labels.

 

Salt and Pepper
Spilling salt: The origins of this superstition lay in how much value was placed on salt as a seasoning for food, therefore spilling it was bad luck. It also is responsible for the origin of the phrase for someone to 'not be worth their salt'.

Sugar

Ketchup can be the worst offender for high sugar levels, with almost 25% of the calories coming from sugar. It is the one condiment I would make myself or buy a better version of.

Salad creams also fare badly, with up to 17% of the calories coming from sugar. And beware 'low fat' ranges of condiments and sauces; when fat is removed, it is often replaced with large amounts of sugar, which is totally devoid of any nutritional value.

Try substituting a homemade vinaigrette for shop bought mayonnaise in some of your recipes, such as coleslaw. It's tricky finding an acceptable brand and homemade mayonnaise uses raw egg which is not suitable for some people.

I also like using sour cream or creme fraiche and mixing it with vinegar or lemon juice to make a creamy dressing.

Salt

Salt continues to be a battle to reduce, especially in processed foods. As condiments are quite concentrated and have strong flavours, salt is a massive issue. We only need one teaspoon of salt a day in our diet, and children need even less.

Rozanne Stevens

Children under the age of two should have an almost salt free diet as their kidneys are not developed enough to cope with salt.

Out of the commonly used condiments, soy sauce has the most salt (no surprise). Followed by ketchup, barbecue sauce and mustard. Mustard? I was quite surprised too. So all of your favourite burger, barbecue and hotdog condiments could be pushing up your sodium levels exponentially.

MSG

When I was growing up, tartrazine was the additive 'baddie' that parents were campaigning against. Followed closely by MSG. We've been fighting the good fight, but I think we've dropped the ball a little on this one. Let me remind you why I believe we need to avoid MSG – Monosodium Glutamate.

MSG is a flavour enhancer that is added to a vast amount of processed foods. It makes food taste considerably better. In other words, it can make cheap, poor quality food taste great.

It is a chemical that does not belong in our food. It has been proven to cause weight gain, affect Type 2 diabetes, cause inflammation of the liver, brain damage and learning difficulties. Pretty nasty stuff.

Gluten

Soy sauce and brown sauce are the most common condiments containing gluten. Tamari sauce is a Japanese style soy sauce that traditionally doesn't contain gluten, but check the label.

Gluten really can be found almost anywhere in foods. It is used as a thickening and bulking agent. If you have kids or throw a kids' summer party, I would, out of caution, make sure that most things are gluten free. Kids with coeliac disease or who have allergies are normally quite savvy, but you don't need any nasty surprises.

Allergens

The three that spring to mind here are soya, celery and anchovies. Soya extracts are used in so many foods that you would never expect, so you need to become a super sleuth.

Celery salt is a very common flavouring, but celery is now listed in the top 14 food allergens. So again, exercise caution. And, lastly, anchovies. These salty little fish are an ingredient in the world famous-but secret-recipe of Worcestershire sauce.

People can be allergic to it, but also strict vegetarians and vegans will avoid it. Some brands of Yorkshire relish, which is quite similar in taste, don't use anchovies.

Making your own homemade condiments

I'm not trying to guilt you into making all your own homemade condiments. Just read the labels and purchase wisely.

If you have particular health concerns, or enjoy a cooking project, then the recipes published here are worth a read.

I haven't done the maths, but I don't think you'll save much money by making your own condiments, but it is healthy, fun and very satisfying to do.

If your kids are ketchup crazy, keep this article and get them to make batches over the school holidays. They're far more likely to eat it if they've made it themselves.

Recipes taken from Delish and Relish cookbooks by Rozanne Stevens. For books and healthy cookery courses log on to www.rozannestevens.com

Twitter: @Rozannestevens

Rozanne Stevens' Homemade Relishes 

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