It’s barbecue season, and if you’re keen to eat well, you may be tempted by one of the new ‘healthy’ condiments — such as the relish that claims to nurture gut health, or ketchup that keeps your teeth cavity-free.
Mandy Francis asked Ruth Kander, a dietitian at Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess a range. We then rated them…
It’s barbecue season, and if you’re keen to eat well, you may be tempted by one of the new ‘healthy’ condiments
SkinnyDips BBQ Sauce
£3.49 for 320ml, amazon.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 26; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0.3g; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 1.2g
Claim: ‘Only four calories per serving. Gluten free and coeliac friendly. Dairy free and lactose friendly.’
Expert verdict: It’s no surprise that this is described as free from gluten and dairy, and coeliac friendly — this sauce is little more than water (the first ingredient in the list) with sweeteners, tomato paste and spices.
The sweeteners erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and stevia (a plant extract) here don’t cause as much gas and bloating as others, such as xylitol (a sugar alcohol extracted from birch wood), can in some people.
While this doesn’t give you much in the way of nutrition — and adding lots of sweet sauces to foods is not a habit to be encouraged — products like this can be helpful if you have a sweet tooth, as they have far less impact on your weight and blood sugar than a regular, sugary sauce. Like many low-calorie products, this has quite a lot of added salt for flavour.
Health rating: 7/10
Taste: Very spicy — with a cloying aftertaste of sweetener. 3/10
Hellmann’s Lighter Than Light Mayonnaise
£1.50 for 430ml, tesco.com
Per 100g: Calories, 68; saturated fat, 0.7g; protein, 0.7g; sugar, 4.2g; salt, 1.7g.
Claim: ‘Only 3 per cent fat. Excellent source of omega 3.’
Expert verdict: A tablespoon of regular mayonnaise can add a whopping 108 calories (the equivalent of one-and-a-half digestive biscuits) and 12g fat, but this ‘light’ mayo provides just 10 calories and 0.4g fat.
The heart-healthy omega-3 fats here come from a little rapeseed oil, which is also a good source of vitamin E.
On the downside, this has a long ingredients list, including lots of ‘fillers’ and thickeners such as corn starch, citrus fibre and xanthan gum (a fermented sugar).
It is also high in salt to make up for the loss of flavour that comes from cutting the fat. You’ll get just over 4 per cent of your daily limit in a tablespoon.
Health rating: 4/10
Taste: Surprisingly creamy with a pleasant vinegary tang. 7/10
In The Buff Protein Ketchup
£3.99 for 452ml, ocado.com
Per 100g: Calories, 133; saturated fat, 0.9g; protein, 12.2g; sugar, 2.7g; salt, 0.61g
Claim: The Turmeric Fusion version has ‘ten times more protein than average ketchup’ and is ‘low in sugar’.
Expert verdict: Most of us eat too much protein already, so few of us need foods with ‘added protein’.
The protein here comes from 21 per cent edamame beans (soy) and 7 per cent protein isolate (protein powder). Soy is also a great source of vitamins and minerals including calcium. There are no added sugars, just some banana for sweetness. Banana is a good source of potassium, which is important for healthy blood pressure, but you’ll only get a tiny bit in a serving.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties but again, with only 2 per cent here, you are unlikely to get much benefit.
Health rating: 6/10
Taste: Like a powdery curry sauce. 5/10
Slightly Different Tomato Relish
£3.59 for 188g, dolphinfitness.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 75; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 1.1g; sugar, 16g; salt, 0.6g
Claim: ‘Certified FODMAP friendly. We exclude all 14 of the major allergens. Lower in sugar and salt.’
Expert verdict: FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols — a group of carbohydrates that are notorious for triggering symptoms such as bloating and stomach pain in those with sensitive guts.
For this reason, garlic and onion — both high in fructans (a type of FODMAP) and commonly added to relish for flavour — have been replaced with asafoetida, a pungent compound taken from giant fennel root. There’s a small amount of evidence to suggest it may help protect against high cholesterol.
This product is 57 per cent tomatoes and 3 per cent tomato puree. Processed tomatoes are an especially good source of lycopene, the protective antioxidant that gives red fruit their colour and has the potential to help ward off conditions including cancer.
Gherkins, the second main ingredient, are a good source of vitamin K, which helps blood clot and keeps bones strong.
I’m surprised to see sultanas in this, however, as they are not an especially low FODMAP ingredient. Although you’ll only get a small amount in a tablespoon serving, it’s something to be aware of if you have a sensitive gut.
Also, there’s a generous half teaspoon of added sugar in each serving, from brown sugar, black treacle and glucose — this is 8 per cent of your daily limit.
Health rating: 6/10
Taste: Fresh sweet tomato and gherkin with paprika. 6/10
Real Good Tomato Ketchup
£2.20 for 310g, ocado.com
Per 100g: Calories, 66; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 2g; sugar, 5.7g; salt, 0.32g
Claim: ‘Over 75 per cent less sugar and salt than regular ketchups’. Contains xylitol, a birch sugar which ‘contributes to the maintenance of tooth mineralisation, reducing bacteria and cavities’.
Expert verdict: This ketchup is 43 per cent tomato paste, a good source of the protective antioxidant lycopene. There’s no added sugar and it’s low in salt — all very commendable.
However, I’d struggle to recommend it because of the xylitol in it. Although this has been shown to help kill bacteria in the mouth that cause dental decay, in some people it ferments in the gut, causing uncomfortable side-effects including wind, bloating and diarrhoea — even in small doses. There are better, less problematic sweeteners around.
Health rating: 3/10
Taste: Good tomato flavour but can taste the sweetener. 5/10
Hunter & Gather Barbecue Sauce
£3.59 for 250g, hunterandgatherfoods.com
Per 100g: Calories, 54; saturated fat, 0.1g; protein, 2.6g; sugar, 5.8g; salt, 1.4g
Claim: ‘Low carb, and 82 per cent less sugar than the leading brand. Gluten-free.’
Expert verdict: This has 84 per cent tomato content, and these processed tomatoes are a good source of the protective antioxidant lycopene.
All the ingredients here are simple and recognisable, which is nice to see, as ultra-processed foods can be low in nutrients.
Balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar are the next main ingredients, and there’s some evidence they may help to steady blood sugar levels after a meal, but more research is needed. However, this is quite high in salt.
Health rating: 8/10
Taste: Rich tomato, with delicious smoky, peppery notes. 8/10
HLTHPUNK LB’s Hot Dijon Mustard
£3.09 for 150g, planetorganic.com
Per 100g: Calories, 224; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 10.3g; sugar, 1.5g; salt, 8.3g
Claim: Made from biodynamic mustard seeds. ‘A sustainable health bomb.’ Free from soy, lactose and egg. No added sugar.
Expert verdict: Biodynamic seeds means they are organic, not genetically modified — I’ve no idea what nutritional benefits they can offer compared to regular seeds, though.
Mustard is a great way to add flavour to your barbecue foods, as it only has a few, simple ingredients — this one has just four. It’s a good way to add a dash of minerals to your diet, such as iron, too.
Health rating: 8/10
Taste: Authentic fiery mustard flavour. 10/10
Fody Original BBQ Sauce
£3.99 for 340g, fodyfoods.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 116; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 1.6g; sugar, 23.9g; salt, 0.75g
Claim: ‘Gluten free. Low FODMAP and gut friendly’.
Expert verdict: This is certified as FODMAP friendly. The main ingredient is 26 per cent tomato paste — a good source of the antioxidant lycopene — with apple cider vinegar.
Like many barbecue sauces, this is pretty sweet, with nearly a teaspoon of added sugar coming from raw cane sugar and molasses in every tablespoon — nearly 12 per cent of your daily limit.
Health rating: 4/10
Taste: Smoky and sweet with a hint of horseradish. 6/10
Skinny Sauce Burger Relish
£3.99 for 425ml, skinnyfoodco.com
Per 100ml: Calories, 17; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0.6g; sugar, 1g; salt, 2g
Claim: ‘Diabetic friendly. No added sugar. Gluten free. Fat free. Zero dairy.’
Expert verdict: Condiments can be a bit of a no-go area if you have diabetes or are watching your weight, as most are full of sugar.
This blend of water, tomato paste, thickeners (citrus fibre and xanthan gum) and flavourings is sweetened with sucralose — a calorie-free artificial sweetener.
This relish will add little or no nutrition, and gram per gram, it’s very high in salt.
Salt is the second ingredient on the list after water, and has the most salt of the lot apart from the mustard, which you use in far smaller quantities.
Health rating: 5/10
Taste: Extremely sweet and salty. 3/10