Sauces, Condiments, and Dressings, Oh My! The Best and Worst Options for People with Diabetes

The world of condiments, dressings, sauces, and other food sprucer-uppers is a minefield for many people with diabetes. Hidden sugars lurk in unlikely places, making it challenging to maintain your blood sugar levels, and it’s often difficult to estimate exactly how much of these items you’re actually eating.

It is important to remember that each brand and flavor of a particular type of sauce, dressing, or condiment will be a bit different than the others in its category, so make sure you’re watching labels when picking one out. Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a dressing that fits your dietary needs, and you certainly don’t have to avoid the “bad” options completely—just limit them and watch your blood sugar closely when consuming them.

Here’s a list of some of the worst dressings, sauces, and condiments for people with diabetes. Below that, you’ll find a list of some items that tend to be healthier and might be good replacements for some of these unhealthy foods.

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Soy Sauce

Soy sauce won’t necessarily increase your blood sugar more than other sauces, but it can significantly impact weight gain and other health measurements, mostly due to its high salt content. Many soy sauces contain about 1,000 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. If this is one of your favorites, try looking for low-sodium soy sauces or substituting with something like coconut aminos.

Ketchup

Ketchup is generally chock-full of sugar and corn syrup, which makes it a bit of an enemy to people who struggle with high blood sugar. There are more natural ketchup alternatives with less sugar, however, if you really just need that tomatoey goodness. Remember to read your labels—natural doesn’t always mean healthy.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Ruslan Mitin

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Creamy Salad Dressings

The vast majority of salad dressings (aside from vinegar-based dressings) are full of sugar and carbohydrates, making them poor choices for people with diabetes. Creamy dressings such as ranch or honey mustard are often among the worst. If your salad needs to be dressed up, avoid creamy and opaque dressings and opt for balsamic dressings and vinaigrettes.


Even if some of your favorite options are on the list of things you should limit to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, there are lots of other choices that might just do the trick. Here’s a short list of some of the healthier things you can use to dress up your food.

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Vinaigrettes

As mentioned above, salad dressings are often bad news in the blood sugar department, but vinegar-based dressings are a good alternative. Luckily, vinaigrettes come in lots of fun flavors to meet every person’s taste: raspberry, mustard, Italian, Greek, balsamic, citrus, tomato, and more.

Salsa

Salsa tastes delicious and is made mostly from vegetables and spices, so it’s a great option to give some extra flavor to any dish. There are lots of options for different spice levels and different flavors, so almost everyone should be able to find a salsa that they like.

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Olive oil

Olive oil is useful for cooking, dipping bread, dressing a salad, and more. Some people enjoy it as a dressing by itself, while others prefer it in combination with vinegar or mixed into a vinaigrette. Either way, it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a healthy way to spruce up your food.

Mustard

Mustard contains antioxidants and other compounds thought to be healthy; some even believe mustard may be able to lower blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. Many prepared mustards don’t contain sugar or carbohydrates (although they do generally contain sodium), so they’re a good choice for people with diabetes. Mustard also comes in different varieties and flavors to choose from.

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Spices or Herbs

When it comes to adding spices and herbs to your food, you can pick pretty much whichever ones you want. Watch out for seasoning mixtures that contain salt or other unnecessary ingredients, but any type of pure seasoning or herb is safe for use by people with diabetes. There are so many options to try out on your food, and you might be surprised by how much some of them can change the taste of your meal.

Hot sauces

If you’re looking for a bit of a kick, try out a hot sauce. Avoid hot sauces that contain sugar or excessive preservatives, but hot sauce is generally a safe and healthy way to add flavor to a meal or snack.

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Mayonnaise

There are some mayo recipes that are less healthy than others (Miracle Whip, for example, contains sugar and isn’t a great choice), but a healthier mayonnaise without added sugar is a good choice for people with diabetes. Most mayonnaise is made from eggs, oil, and spices, all of which are diabetes-friendly.

Relish

Like salsa, relish is mostly made of vegetables (pickles, in this case) and vinegar. Sweeter varieties of relish may be less diabetes-friendly, and many varieties contain a lot of salt, so it’s good to check the ingredient list, but it’s another healthy choice you can have on hand to fix up a bland meal.


Changing your diet to live a healthier life as a person with diabetes can be incredibly difficult, but if you fill your toolbelt with ideas for healthy meals and diabetes-friendly items that can improve the taste of those meals, you’re well on your way to a successful healthy lifestyle. Try out some of the healthy alternatives listed above and let us know what your favorites are!

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