The Best and Worst Condiments

How Many Calories are You Heaping on Your Burger?

table with summer bbq condiments

It's barbecue season and what could be faster, tastier and healthier than a little something grilled? From tofu and veggies to burgers and dogs, anything on a bun is beloved by our backyard and cottage culture. You carefully choose the leanest meat and whole-grain bun but what you top it with could be a slather of unsuspecting empty calories.

Here is your condiment guide in order of worst to best, choose wisely.

Worst To Best Burger Toppers

5. Mayonnaise or anything made with mayonnaise

All commercial mayos are made by thickening some kind of liquid fat into a solid. Either the traditional whipping of oil into eggs is used or the lower fat treatment of using a corn or seaweed derived thickener, the concept is still the same: fat. Delicious, creamy fat that will cost you about 100 calories per tablespoon no matter which brand you buy. Tartar Sauces and “sandwich spreads” are no better; they deliver no nutrients and too many calories. 

4. Barbecue Sauce

This bold bounce to your bun packs a punch but most formulations begin with sugar and water. Mixing in a proprietary blend of tomato sauce and spices makes each version a flavor all its own and everyone has their favorite. Offering almost no nutritional value for its 300-400 mg of sodium (almost 1/3 of a healthy day’s dose) in 1 tablespoon is a crime before you even consider the 30-40 calories.

3. Ketchup

Treasured by children and loved by all as the condiment of choice for just about everything. Ketchup takes the middle spot for the fact that it relies upon one of earth’s healthiest vegetables. Albeit, this is a high salt, high sugar way to get that vegetable, but still. Most formulations do start with tomatoes or tomato paste that is thinned down with vinegar and water and seasoned up with salt, spices and sugar. The top few brands weigh in at about 20-25 calories per tablespoon delivering about 10-15 % of your healthy day’s amount of salt. 

2. Relish

Now we are moving to the better side of the bun. Not all relish is created equal; you can still stumble if you choose sweet green, zucchini or chili. All offer a little nutritional benefit and about 15-25 calories per tablespoon which is about the same as ketchup. 


1. Mustard

All you have to do is avoid the honey mustards and mustard blends and you can’t go wrong. Each and every mustard on the shelf is lower in calories than anything else you are going to squeeze on your dog. And they are little super heroes packing much more than they seem. Made from mustard seed which is a high anti-oxidant spice that has anti-inflammatory properties. If it is colored at all it is usually with trace amounts of turmeric which is another potent anti-cancer spice. Rarely made with sugar (thus the “avoid the honeyed versions” note) and only mixed with vinegar and very little salt it offers zing for a caloric pittance. 

Theresa Albert, a yummymummyclub alum is a foodie who happens to be a nutritionist and not the other way around. She loves to explore food and the culture of food and all of the human love/hate rituals that surround it. Her new book Ace Your Health: 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck (McClelland & Stewart) is a fun, practical guide to making tasty, changes for improved health using morsels of information and delicious, healthy recipes. Her television show "Just One Bite" aired on the Food Network for over two years in a daily time slot and still appears on BBC kids, it introduced her energetic style to millions. She is also the author of Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day.

Definitely not a finger wagger, as a registered nutritionist, Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP, has a passion for simple, honest solutions to today's lifestyle choices. In addition to her private practice at the Toronto Clinic, she has provided content and comment for every major Canadian broadcaster and is forever pushing the bologna out of lunchboxes and out of the news media. As an avid social media user, blogger/writer and as a parent, she understands the struggles of balancing priorities in real life. In print newspapers and magazines, you will often see her quoted when an issue needs common sense clarification. 

She prepares a free weekly newsletter to make you laugh, eat well and be inspired. It can be found at