Portion Sizes for Common Condiments

Condiments can kill an otherwise healthy diet.

Condiments can kill an otherwise healthy diet.

For some people, a sandwich just isn’t a sandwich without a layer of creamy mayonnaise, and a taco just isn’t a taco without a dash of hot salsa and sour cream. And while these extra ingredients certainly can boost the flavor, they also add calories, sodium, carbs and fat. Keeping your condiments in check requires knowing the portion sizes -- and sticking with those suggested servings.


Each condiment manufacturer sets its own guidelines for portion sizes, so always check the nutrition label to get the most accurate information. While some ketchup companies might recommend using only 1 teaspoon per serving, other companies might allow for 1 tablespoon. The label will give you the calorie and nutrition information for the identified serving size.


When you’re using sauces to dress up your meal, a set of teaspoons will be your best friend. Just 1/2 teaspoon is typically the portion size for barbecue sauce, cocktail sauce, ketchup, sweet and sour sauce and wasabi. This small 1/2-teaspoon serving of ketchup delivers around 5 calories, 1 gram of sugar and 55 milligrams of sodium. But many people use a much larger portion of the red condiment, pouring it liberally on fries and burgers. Using just 2 tablespoons of ketchup provides a whopping 334 milligrams of sodium -- about 20 percent of the daily recommended sodium intake.

Double the amount and use 1 teaspoon for Dijon mustard, horseradish, marinara sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, teriyaki sauce and balsamic vinegar. A 1-teaspoon serving of horseradish dishes up just 2 calories and 16 milligrams of sodium, while the same serving size of soy sauce provides nearly 300 milligrams of sodium. You can get a bit more liberal with salsa and yellow mustard, which typically allow for 1 tablespoon per serving. Low-calorie hot sauce might even allow up to 3 tablespoons per serving. High-sodium options like Worcestershire sauce might be limited to just 1/4 teaspoon per serving.

Oils and Fats

Whether you’re using olive, canola, safflower or other types of oil, 1 teaspoon is generally the suggested serving size. Although 1 teaspoon of olive oil is a bit high in total fat -- 4.5 grams per serving -- it contains mostly healthy unsaturated fats, which actually help lower cholesterol. The 1-teaspoon portion also applies for margarine, butter and mayonnaise. However, these condiments tend to be a bit more damaging to the waistline. Just 1 teaspoon of butter has 36 calories, 4 grams of total fat -- mostly saturated -- and 36 milligrams of sodium.

A 1-tablespoon dollop of cream cheese is the standard portion size, while a small handful of five to six olives is a single serving. While olives have a decent amount of sodium per serving, their calorie and fat content is quite low. Salad dressings are a bit more difficult to generalize, since such a wide variety of flavors exist. However, the serving size will generally fall between 1 and 2 tablespoons.

Herbs and Spices

Whether you are using them fresh or dried, herbs and spices typically allow for a bit more flexibility. Typically low in calories, fat and sodium, you rarely need to worry about dieting disasters when using herbs and spices to season your foods. Still, the manufacturer will identify a suggested serving size. In most cases, the standard portion sizes for dried herbs and spices fall between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon. Some herbs, like parsley, sage tarragon and seaweed, might allow for larger tablespoon-sized portions.

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