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The Healthiest Sauces to Add Flavour to Any Meal, Ranked by a Dietitian

A good dousing of sauce can make any meal go from bland and unwanted to the most flavourful plate of food that’ll have you going back for seconds. The only problem is, most condiments are packed with sodium, added sugar, artificial sweeteners and a plethora of other not-so-healthy-ingredients. What’s more, their calorie content can be equal to - if not more - than the actual food on your plate. 

In saying this, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour for a healthy diet; there are still a variety of delicious sauces that are healthier than others. 

What you need to look for is one that is low in added sugar and sodium, as there are the two biggest culprits when it comes to increasing your risk of developing chronic diseases. 

So, which ones should you keep on rotation? We asked student dietitian Clare Keating to reveal some of the healthiest sauces to consider when you want to add flavour to a meal. 

5 healthiest sauces, ranked by a dietitian

1. Salsa

Nutrition information per 100g:

  • Calories: 29
  • Carbohydrates: 6.7g
  • Sugar: 3.9g
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Protein: 1.5g

Not only is salsa low in calories, but it’s also packed with antioxidants. “Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, which has been linked to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer,” Keating tells Bed Threads Journal.

“Usually made from fresh tomatoes, onion, chillies and lime juice, salsa is incredibly healthy and nutritious.” Add it to nachos salads or scrambled eggs.

2. Pesto

Nutrition information per 100g:

  • Calories: 235
  • Carbohydrates: 6.9g
  • Sugar: 2.4g
  • Fat: 21.2g
  • Saturated fat: 2.6g
  • Protein: 4.7g

The calorie content doesn’t look the healthiest, so why does it make the list? It’s all thanks to those healthy fats. “Per 100g, store-bought basil pesto typically has 235 calories and 21g of fat, but only 2.5g of that is saturated fat,” Keating explains. “There’s plenty of healthy monounsaturated fats that come from the addition of olive oil and pine nuts.”

Moreover, “basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in blood clotting and bone metabolism.”

3. Tahini

Nutrition information per 100g:

  • Calories: 595
  • Carbohydrates: 21.2g
  • Sugar: 0.5g
  • Fat: 53.8g
  • Saturated fat: 7.5g
  • Protein: 17g

Again, the calorie content might not be that appealing, but it’s the ingredients that it’s made of that really packs a punch. Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini makes for a great source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals.

Plus, Keating notes that if you want to take advantage of the health benefits of sesame seeds, you need to eat more than just the seeds on your burger buns, which is where tahini comes into play. 

4. Plain Greek Yoghurt

Nutrition information per 100g: 

  • Calories: 57
  • Carbohydrates: 4.2g
  • Sugar: 3.3g
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Saturated fat: 0.1g
  • Protein: 9.7g

Plain Greek yoghurt is the perfect replacement for sour cream because it’s lower in calories and higher in protein and calcium. The best bit? The difference in taste is so minute you won’t even be able to tell the difference once you’ve dolloped it over your nachos. 

Keating adds: “If you eat a vegetarian diet, adding Greek yoghurt to your meals is a great way to bump up the protein and calcium content, which can otherwise be quite tricky to achieve on a vegetable-based diet.”

5. Tomato sauce (reduced sugar version)

Nutrition information per 100g:

  • Calories: 73
  • Carbohydrates: 14.9g
  • Sugar: 11.6g
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Saturated fat: 0.1g
  • Protein: 1.7g

“Although tomato sauce isn’t the healthiest in the world, there are healthier versions and healthy swaps you can make,” Keating says. “Swapping regular tomato sauce for sugar-reduced tomato sauce is a great way to save on extra calories, and of course the added sugars that are something we all really need to be reducing.”

Simply making the switch to a reduced-sugar version can save you 45 calories and 13.2 grams of sugar per 100g (which FYI, is nearly three teaspoons - yikes). 

Unhealthiest sauces

According to Healthline, the eight unhealthiest sauces that contain high amounts of sodium, sugar and calories are:

  • Ranch dressing
  • Fat-free salad dressing 
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Maple syrup
  • Queso
  • Margarine
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Artificial sweeteners

“Remember, everything in moderation and make healthier choices where possible," Keating concludes.

Clare Keating is a Nutritionist and student Dietitian from The Nourish Naturally team. Find her on Instagram @dietitianclare. 

Liked this? Here, a dietitian ranks the most popular coffee orders from healthiest to least healthy. 

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