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Upgrade your condiments

Skip standard ketchup and vinaigrette and stock these quirky new seasoners.

Condiments are supposed to put the finishing touches on a dish. But as they have become increasingly laden with additives, many of your go-tos are more likely to undermine a meal's nutritional value. “Traditional choices like ketchup, mustard and many salad dressings can be full of sugar, salt, corn syrup, preservatives, and even gluten—all of which can mess with your metabolism,” says nutritionist Haylie Pomroy, author of the Fast Metabolism Diet and Fast Metabolism Diet Cookbook. These ingredients can also dominate your taste buds, overpowering real food flavors so all your brain notices is a hit of the artificially sweet or salty.

Thankfully, a handful of new condiments are coming to the fore to perk up everything from your morning scramble to your lunchtime salad. Here, Pomroy points out why these healthy choices deserve a spot in your kitchen:

coconut aminos

Why try it: For the salty, subtly sweet umami flavor of sauces like soy and teriyaki sans common allergens like gluten and soy. “Coconut aminos have a good amino acid blend, which can help your body lay down muscle more efficiently particularly when you combine them with lean protein sources like eggs, beef, or chicken,” says Pomroy. “They’re also rich in minerals that help stabilize electrolytes—another reason they make a great meal addition for athletes.”

How to use it: As a marinade for meats; in stir-frys and soups; baked on fish like a miso glaze; mixed with olive or grapeseed oil as a fresh spin on the old oil-and-vinegar dressing combo.

ghee

Why try it: Clarified butter provides 'real' butter flavor without the milk solids, making ghee a great option if you’re lactose intolerant. It’s also a great energy source. “Our fat cells are energy reservoirs but they can be hard to access, and when you eat ghee sourced from grass-fed cows it’s rich in conjugated linoleic acid, which helps the body access fat for fuel. The CLA assists in the mining process,” explains Pomroy.

How to use it: On baked potatoes and veggies; to cook eggs or stir-fried rice and to sauté spices

cultured veggies

Why try it: Fermenting vegetables like cabbage, beets, carrots, and daikon infuses distinctive sour, tangy flavors plus health benefits. “Cultured vegetables contain prebiotics—the nutrients that feed your healthy gut bacteria and help keep them balanced for a flatter abdomen, better digestion, and a stronger immune system,” says Pomroy. Fermented beets and carrots can lean slightly sweeter so try treating them as relish; cabbage and daikon lend more of a sour flavor.

How to use it: On burgers; in salads; as a small side or wherever you want a crunchy fresh, tangy element to your meal

tapioca cheese

Why try it: It’s a vegan, dairy-free, soy-free option. “One of the best things about this is there’s no worry of GMOs or estrogenic effects due to soy,” says Pomroy. “Plus, tapioca is soothing to the stomach." Her pick: The Daiya brand for melt-ability and taste.

How to use it: Sprinkled into scrambled eggs and salads; on whole-grain toast and tacos.

coconut vinegar

Why try it:This fermented vinegar from the sap of the coconut tree is sharp in taste and rich in minerals like potassium, iron, and magnesium. “Coconut vinegar is very alkalizing for the body so it’s great for balancing pH,” says Pomroy, who recommends active clients use it in a post-workout iced tea. “The body tends to get acidic after a workout, and when lactic acid builds up you don’t burn fat as efficiently. Adding the vinegar to tea balances pH and aids muscle repair and metabolism.”

How to use it: Dashed over beef, poultry or fish; in salad dressings as a substitute for rice, wine, or balsamic vinegar; in Pomroy’s post-workout tea. Recipe: Add 1 Tbsp of coconut vinegar and the juice of a whole lemon to brewed, cooled milk thistle or alfalfa tea (both are rich in potassium and help rehydrate the muscle) and pour over ice.