This series is not intended to teach you the science behind food and fat loss nutrition. Instead, this series is about what to eat for fat loss — a much more practical topic for most people. If you missed installment #1 on the best proteins for fat loss, click here.
I am a mustard geek.
That’s six bottles of mustard. All different. And all in use. And does not include the overstock in my pantry.
And here I thought I had a peanut butter problem.
I put mustard on just about everything savory — salads, veggies, chicken, tuna fish, burgers, ground beef, ground turkey, salmon, tilapia, and sandwiches (which I rarely eat).
And the reasons I love mustard are pretty simple — it’s easy, it’s low-calorie, it’s low-carb, it’s low-fat, it’s low-sugar, and it tastes good.
In fact, those reasons are pretty much the requirements for all the condiments and spices I use. If I am trying to lose fat, I want my condiments and spices to work for me, not inhibit my goals by adding excess calories or macros that would have to be pulled from somewhere else.
So here’s my checklist for good condiments and spices for fat loss:
- low calorie –> so I can get more calories from filling foods instead of sauces
- low fat –> so I can add my own choice of fats, like butter, nuts, coconut oil, etc.
- low sugar & carbs –> helps minimize overall calories and lets me eat more carbs elsewhere
- flavorful –> DUH
- sodium-controlled –> so I can still season my food while cooking
Let me interject a word or 156 on sodium.
You need salt on your food. Even if you are on a sodium-restricted diet, your body does need sodium to function. And if you are cooking almost all of your food from scratch yourself, as I do, there is very little natural sodium in your meats, veggies, and carbs. I salt my meats as I cook them, in addition to seasoning them, and I salt my vegetables when I initially cook them as well. I also add condiments after cooking that contain some sodium, such as those listed below. I have no idea what my total sodium intake for a day is, nor do I feel like I need to track this. I drink a lot, I sweat a lot, I am not retaining unusual amounts of water, I don’t have symptoms of hyponatremia, and if I eat out, my body seems OK with any excess sodium from that meal because it is already adjusted to salt. Those signs tell me that my sodium intake is appropriate for my activity levels, and unless I know a client needs a low-sodium diet, I do not ask my clients to track sodium intake.
I use a combination of both spices and condiments at almost every meal.
When I initially cook a protein or batch of vegetables, I season with something tasty but neutrally flavored so that I am not locked in to Asian, Italian, Mexican, etc. for an entire week.
- Chicken & Fish –> Montreal Chicken Seasoning, or combo of salt, pepper & a salt-free spice
- Beef & Ground Turkey –> Montreal Steak Seasoning, Salt + Hamburger blend, or Salt + TJs 21 Seasoning Salute
- Veggies –> Salt + Salt-free spice blend (All Purpose or TJs 21 Seasoning Salute)
- Eggs –> Salt + pepper + McCormick’s All Purpose Salt-Free
- Grilled items –> Salt + Spice blend + Smoked Paprika
Once I am actually making a meal from my pre-cooked meats and veggies, I then add one of a variety of sauces or other condiments to these.
- Chicken, ground beef, burgers, and veggies –> Silver Springs Chipotle Mustard
- Salads –> salsa verde, mustard, or an ounce or two of guacamole
- Rice & potatoes –> low-sodium marinara sauce
- Eggs –> hot tomato salsa, Frank’s hot sauce, guacamole
Note that I really don’t use salad dressing. This is a personal preference; I would rather save my fats for other things, like peanut butter or coconut, so I tend to dress my salads minimally. Mustard, salsa, a small serving of guacamole, or even something simple and acidic like lemon juice or vinegar is enough dressing for me. And if I am eating out, I always choose dressing or a little bit of cheese for a salad — not both. If your ability to enjoy a salad, however, instead of a higher calorie meal is dependent on dressing, then you can simply use fewer fats in other places.
There are additionally a few condiments I tend to avoid because of calorie and macro content. Barbecue sauces, pre-made curry sauces, bottled marinades, and ketchup are all options I rarely use. You can include them, however, in measured amounts; they can absolutely work in a fat loss diet, and if those flavors are going to make a fat loss diet more enjoyable for you, by all means, include them.
Ultimately, that last part — what will make food work for you — is the thing that should guide your cooking habits. If you love spicy, go spicy as much as you want. If you love Asian, stock up on ginger and rice wine vinegar. And if you’re a Mediterranean at heart, go for the oregano and basil.
Just don’t forego the seasonings or condiments altogether because your goal is fat loss.
Nothing will derail your diet plans faster than boring food.