Don't Drown Your Food


Food Safety:

If you are one of the generation who grew up on 70s-80s Saturday morning cartoons, you might remember a series of public service announcements that aired in between your favorite shows. Tucked in between the adventures of Batman and Robin, and even the kitschy Schoolhouse House videos were very short, very animated appeals to children about good nutrition. One that stands out in memory is Louis the Lifeguard pleading us in song not to "drown" the food we eat.

Louis was referring, of course, to condiments, as the PSA portrayed him gallantly rescuing a potato from a bowl of sour cream, and a boiled egg from an avalanche of mayonnaise. The message then is as clear as it should be now: not only can condiments can affect the taste of foods, but also affect the overall nutritional value of the meal.

Just as certain diet products are designed to supplement a weight loss program by helping people maintain a healthy diet and exercise, condiments are meant to supplement the flavor of certain foods. Note the key word is supplement. Oftentimes, however, we can get carried away with condiments, so much that they become their own food group rather than the miniscule part of a meal they were meant to be. Picture the plate of steamed broccoli smothered in melted cheddar cheese, the baked potato supporting a pool of butter, the grilled chicken coated in salsa...they make look delicious, and you might think you are enjoying a good meal with the base foods, but going overboard on the condiments can do harm.

So what is wrong with a bit here and bit there of something to complement a main or side dish? Nothing, if condiments are used in moderation. Use too much, however, and you could be adding things to your diet that you don't really need.

Sugar

Ever wonder why we like ketchup on our French fries? Unlike the tomatoes from which this condiment comes, ketchup has added ingredients to make it more palatable. Sugar, for one, gives ketchup its sweetness. Looking at a label of your favorite brand, you may say to yourself, "Hey, there's only four grams per serving here. That's not much." No, it isn't, but think of all the servings you've enjoyed over the week, the month, and the year. Two servings of ketchup a day over the course of one month equals 240 grams of sugar.

Fat

You've heard the saying, "A sandwich just isn't a sandwich without..." Well, have you considered ending the sentence with fat? If you heard it like that, would you eat the sandwich?

Yet, many people do enjoy a deli sandwich slathered with mayonnaise or another type of egg-based dressing. Mayonnaise has perhaps the highest fat content of any condiment--even in its "light" form, the dressing is almost always 50% fat. This is something to consider the next time you build a sandwich, ask yourself if you want to counteract a healthy slice of turkey with something that will cover the taste and not offer as much nutritional value.

Sodium

That extra tang in your sandwich, on your main dish, in your vegetables that makes the food taste good? Salt. Check any label of your favorite condiments, and you will find salt is a main ingredient. Salt helps preserve the condiments in their packaging, and adds flavor to otherwise bland ingredients. Too much sodium, naturally, is never good for the diet, as it can lead to high blood pressure, water retention, and other problems. You might think a bit of salt here and there is not harmful, but as sodium occurs naturally in most foods you eat, you have to ask yourself if you should add more to your eating plan.

So should you stop eating condiments altogether? We don't necessarily say that, though we would advise sparing use when you do decide to enhance your foods. Also, consider taking a "condiment holiday," where you refrain from using anything on your food. Note the difference in flavor and absence of extra sugars and fat. You might find the food tastes just as good without the added help, and that it could be better for you, too.

Kathryn Lively writes for Compuslim, custom fit weight loss for everyone.

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