I get it…eating at home for many people feels either 1) too complicated and overwhelming or 2) too boring. That’s where healthy condiments come into play!
I’ve addressed number one with info to simplify your meal prep (go here to read it). But the way you spice up the flavor of your food at home has everything to do with keeping the right healthy condiments on hand. Stocking a variety of healthy condiments in your pantry and fridge is a wellness hack that every health-minded person should know…and share with others (don’t keep it to yourself).
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about ketchups made with high fructose corn syrup or salad dressings high in sodium and other icky ingredients like carrageenan. I’m talking about condiments that are minimal in ingredients, and that utilize natural flavor enhancers like herbs and spices.
Read on for 10 healthy condiments that’ll make you only want to eat at home…
1. TAMARI | What can’t you add tamari to, that’s the question. Tamari is soy sauce’s healthier, gluten-free cousin. Be sure to look for low sodium and organic. I love the one from San-J. Of course it’s perfect for dressing up any stir fries or sautéed veggies, but it also makes a great salad dressing component as well. Add a splash to soup for that nice umami flavor, too.
2. MANGO CHUTNEY | If you like a tiny hit of sweet flavor with a dish (and I do), try a small scoop of mango chutney on top or on the side. Try it on baked sweet potato, or a scoop on top of grilled or roasted veggies. Be sure to keep your serving to about a tablespoon so you don’t add too much sugar, and look for one with clean ingredients. I like the one from Sukhi’s.
3. RIPE AVOCADO | A ripe avocado is a gift from the healthy condiment gods. In fact, I can’t think of a healthier oil or fat to add to a dish. Be selective when purchasing your avocados. If it’s hard as a rock, it’ll be a couple of days before it’s perfectly ripe. If you need it sooner, go for one that gives just slightly when you touch it (press gently so as to not ruin the avocados for the next person!). When you find the perfect ripe avocado, just cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh of one side. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt and add a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of tamari on top. Use a fork to smash the avocado flesh. It might not be pretty, but it might just be one of the best things you’ll ever taste. Save the other half of your avocado by leaving the pit in it, and wrap it in a paper towel. Use it the next day at the latest.
4. HUMMUS | Hummus is a staple in most Mediterranean-based diets, and for good reason. A scoop or two adds protein from the beans and good fat from the tahini, as well as fiber and flavor, to any dish. I love a scoop on the obvious foods like salads or a wrap, but try it on more unexpected dishes too, like roasted veggies, or mixed in with a healthy pasta.
5. TOASTED SESAME OIL | A little drizzle of sultry toasted sesame oil adds an interesting twist to your food. Just open the bottle and smell it. The scent is enlivening and exotic, and you’ll get that same profile with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil on top of your stir fry, power bowl or even on roasted root veggies. A little goes a long way.
6. GRAINY MUSTARD | A good grainy mustard definitely deserves a spot on your refrigerator shelf. They’re so versatile: mix a bit with tamari or lemon juice for an easy, light salad dressing or toss it on warm roasted veggies or potatoes. Even better if you add truffle oil! The bigger the grain in the mustard, the more texture you’ll add to your dish.
7. HOT SAUCE | If you’re into spicier foods, get your kicks with a shake of hot sauce. Of course it’s great on things like eggs, soups and chilis. Try adding a hit of hot sauce to your power bowl or anything with beans. Look for one with minimal ingredients and avoid artificial colorings, flavors and preservatives. You can even choose your favorite level of heat.
8. SAUERKRAUT | Thankfully, more people are starting to learn about the health benefits, and the delicious flavor, of fermented foods like sauerkraut. Of course we know these foods are incredibly beneficial for a healthy gut, but they also add such a unique, tangy flavor to foods. A flavor that you’ll likely find yourself craving more of as you start to work them into your diet. Add a spoonful of sauerkraut to your mixed salad, or on top of a soup or chili. And be sure to use the juice left in the jar; it’s rich in probiotics, too. My favorite ways to use the juice are either to drink it straight (healthy gut shot) or mix it with a ripe avocado to use as a salad dressing (see number 3 above).
9. SPICES & HERBS | Spices are loaded with different compounds that are beneficial for the body. From inflammation-reducing turmeric to mineral-rich sea salt, there are many different nutritional properties, and flavors, to choose from in the world of spices. The ones I always keep on hand: a good quality sea salt, turmeric, curry, harissa, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, ginger and cardamom. Grab one or two of these and start playing. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Similar to all the benefits of spices, adding chopped fresh herbs to a dish adds both more nutrition and more flavor. I recommend taking full advantage of that. Some of the easiest to use to flavor your food, and also add gorgeous color to your dish, are cilantro, mint, rosemary and basil. And even though it’s not technically an herb, minced garlic is a delicious and healthy way to flavor your food, too.
10. LEMONS AND LIMES | A squeeze of fresh citrus brightens up the flavor of most any dish. Lemons and limes are the easiest to use and can be used interchangeably. For even more flavor, invest in a microplane zester (a kitchen tool staple for every home chef) and zest a bit of fresh lemon or lime on top, which instantly add freshness to any dish.
Final tip: don’t be afraid to mix condiments. As you start to learn what you love and prefer, you’ll get better at flavor pairings. Just remember there’s no right or wrong way. As long as your condiments are clean and healthy, the only thing that should guide you is what tastes good to you.