As my husband and I grow older, we attempt to age gracefully. One method we practice is healthy eating. It has recently been brought to my attention as I slathered mayonnaise on my sandwich that I really should be paying more attention to the effect condiments may be having on my health. “Condiments?” I asked, incredulously. I mean, seriously, we’re only talking about a tablespoon here or a tablespoon there of this or that. Is it really that important? Well, after I became a little more informed I discovered that, yes, it is really that important.

That meal I was eating, convinced it was so healthy, had just been made a heart attack on a plate by all the barbecue sauce I added. That sauce was full of extra calories, salt and sugar that I simply did not need. The ketchup I used to dazzle my veggie hot dog? I might as well have dumped a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of salt right smack on top of that frank.

What’s a girl to do who likes a little sweetness with a savory beefy entrée? Must I live a life of foodie denial and never again enjoy the spice of Sriracha or the tang of mustard? Do condiments have to be relegated to a food category of being covertly evil because they have absolutely no nutritional value? No, they don’t.

Nutritionists advise to simply pay attention to the portions that are consumed. Diners must also be aware of the trickiness of condiments. Because of the sweet nature of a condiment such as ketchup, I could be tricked into eating more French fries than I really want. Another thing for condiment lovers to do is simply shop a little smarter. A compromise between health and indulgence may be as simple as switching brands. Food manufacturers are aware of more and more consumers shopping in a health conscious fashion. There are many healthy alternatives to the traditional condiments we are all accustomed to. Artisan condiments are available which are derived from organic products and usually use less sodium and sugar. Even many major brands offer low sodium, low fat, or reduced sugar options.

Although exercise and genes play a critical role in determining my quality of life as well as my longevity, diet is also a very important factor in that equation. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. I want to hold my great-grandchildren in my arms. I want my husband to be beside me every step of the way. If opting out of condiments, minimizing my use of condiments, or switching my brands of condiments can help me achieve these goals, well, for me it’s a no-brainer. My health and my future with my family are more important than any glob of ketchup or mayonnaise.

Condiment awareness is just one more strategy I can add to my “Live Longer And Healthier” playbook. Salsa, pesto, natural jellies and mustard are the winning condiment team. Ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and ranch dressing are the bad guys. I’ll be watching my consumption of those tasty devils like a hawk while I enjoy my indulgence of the rest. Piece of cake (well, sugar free cake, at least)!