Q. Should condiments be considered when planning a diabetic diet or meal plan, or are they considered "free" foods?

Condiment portion size should be considered for condiments containing calories or carbs.
©Chris Brown
Portion size should
be considered when using condiments.

A. Barbecue sauce, catsup, mus­tard, chutney, relishes, salsa, pickles, olives, and mayon­naise all fall into the category of condiments, a large group of sweet, salty, spicy, or savory foods that accompany a variety of dishes.

Many condiments qualify as a "free" food in an individualized meal plan. Free foods have less than 5 grams of carbohydrate and less than 20 calories per serving. In small amounts, most condiments have no significant effect on blood glucose levels.

However, it is necessary to be aware of your portion size when it comes to condiments con­taining calories or carbohy­drates. One serving may indeed be a free food; two servings may not be. For example, 1 tablespoon of catsup containing 4 grams of carbohydrate is free, but 3 to 4 tablespoons of catsup adds up to 12 to 16 grams of carbohydrate, which needs to be counted as 1 carbohydrate exchange.

The following chart shows how carbohydrate amounts on the labels of condiments translate to carbohydrate exchange amounts. Be sure to make note of the serving size on the label.

If you typically eat more or less than the serving, you'll have to adjust the carbohydrate amount accordingly. Be sure to check with your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to see if these amounts fit into your individualized meal plan:

Carb Amount
Exchange
1 to 5g Free
6 to 10g 1/2 carbohydrate
11 to 20g
1 carbohydrate
21 to 25g
1-1/2 carbohydrate
26 to 35g
2 carbohydrates








Another nutrient to keep an eye on in condiments is sodium. One teaspoon of mustard with 120 milligrams of sodium may fit into your meal plan; three to four teaspoons -- with nearly 500 milligrams -- may not.

While most condiments are fat-free or nearly so, some are loaded with fat. Check the nutrient labels of dips, mayonnaise, guacamole, sour cream, and tartar sauce for fat gram information. Use light, low-fat, or fat-free versions instead.

And again, measure your portion sizes. One "free" serving at less than half a gram of fat adds up if you exceed the portion size or number of servings.

For more information about types of condiments, as well as condiment recipes, visit:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.