Saucy Tips to Improve d-Health

Guest Post by Sally Marchini – Dietitian

Today we are looking at some ideas presented by our members on how to swap some of the more processed sauces for lower sodium/fat/sugar varieties and some great ideas for fresh, homemade options. I thought we’d look at some of these today, and how we could modify some recipes to make our own that would be kinder to our d-health. Some of the sauces mentioned by our community were Satay sauce, Bernaise sauce, salsa, curry sauces, tomato/bbq sauce, salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce, sweet chilli sauce, mustard pickles, and pestos.

It’s important to remember that it’s fine to eat small amounts of what you like if you really want them, but is better if we can find fresher, healthier alternatives, or modify what you like to make the most of it while still considering your health.

Reminder on healthy food targets

Primarily for heart health reasons, look for less than 2g/100g saturated fat, less than 400mg/100g sodium, and minimise added sugars which may throw BGL readings out of range.

Ideas for alternatives

  • When you consider the main reason we enjoy sauces with our food is to add flavour, then herbs (fresh and dried), spices, garlic, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, lemon/lime juice/zest and other fresh flavours can really lift your meal to a new level of enjoyment.
  • Sometimes thinking of alternatives to what you might normally use can prove inspirational and help you to enjoy the food even more knowing that you’re doing your insides a favour too!
  • One of our community members who enjoys pickles and fruit chutney on her sandwiches and a store bought bbq sauce (high in sodium, sugar and fat) or sweet chilli sauce on her chicken or salmon suggested she would swap to “avocado on sandwiches and lemon juice on my chicken or salmon”. Such a simple idea and yet so delicious!

This website gives some great examples of various spices and what foods they go with to help you with some ideas, as well as how to best store them for freshness.

Another idea is an easy alternative to lemon pepper (high in sodium) would be to grate and dry some lemon zest and mix it with freshly ground peppercorns. Wowser! and so easy 🙂


Salsas are a mix of chopped fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, fruit, avocadoes, fresh herbs, garlic are so versatile that you can make up varieties depending on which fresh herbs you have available and what you’re adding it too.

Here are some recipe ideas for a tomato based salsa, a mango and capsicum salsa, an avocado salsa, and a spicy salsa, and there are plenty more where they came from! Don’t they look amazing!?!

Salad dressings

Store bought salad dressings can be a nightmare for heart health, and yet they’re such an easy thing to make yourself! At home we just use one third quality vinegar (white balsamic is my current favourite) or freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice to two thirds extra virgin olive oil. You can choose various oils (preferably those higher in monounsaturated fats) for variations on flavours. Sometimes a dash of sesame oil or other stronger flavoured oils can transform your salads.

And if you prefer the creamier salad dressings, just try some based on low-fat yogurt. This Australian Good Taste recipe sounds wonderful.  As discussed further down too, if you *really love* your current processed creamy dressing, just mix it with half low-fat yogurt to make it a better option.

Here’s a link to some more awesome salad dressing recipes from


It’s great to see that some of you have started experimenting with pestos as they’re so versatile and can really transform a boring meal into something very special. They can be used in pasta dishes, as a coating on meats, as a filling or stuffing in vegetables, and tossed through roasted vegetables make them irresistible, plus a whole lot more.

You just need a big bunch of soft-leafed herb (such as basil, coriander or parsley), a handful of nuts of your choice (pinenuts, walnuts and pecans work well), some quality extra virgin olive oil and extra flavours if you want them such as a quality parmesan cheese or fresh garlic.  And if you have more than you need they freeze well for future use.

Here’s a link to some pesto recipes from, remembering that you can control the sodium levels to suit your own health needs.

Modifying recipes

An awesome way to have the sauces you love but without the heart health issues is to make your own.  We make our own barbeque sauce at home (and our own satay sauce) from recipes that we’ve found online and then modified to suit our heart healthy preferences.

For example in most recipes you can easily cut the ingredients that might be adding the salt and sugar in half quantities, and swap any saturated fats for monounsaturated fats.

Break it down

For our satay sauce we buy the Ayam brand of satay spices (which has a massive amount of sodium) and then break it down using low salt/sugar peanut butter and low-fat coconut flavoured Carnation milk to make it to our liking. It’s rather delicious too!

And if you fancy mayonnaise, try mixing 1 tablespoon mayo to 3 tablespoons low-fat natural yogurt which gives you the taste of mayo with less fat and more nutrients.

Add more goodness

Actually choosing your favourite sauce and ‘watering it down’ with other vegetables, herbs and liquids can also be a good option to retain the flavour you love while minimising the damage.  A good example of this was that of Patak’s curry sauces. One of our communitye said, “I always add tons of stuff to them”. Some examples of good ‘stuff’ to add would be tinned tomatoes or passata for tomatoey ones, low-fat Carnation evaporated milk to creamy ones, or even low-sodium stock, as well as lots of extra fresh vegetables.

Healthier brands?

There are a few companies starting to offer better heart health choices in their sauces and spreads. Always remember to read the label and check for the less than 2g/100g saturated fat, less than 400mg/100g sodium and added sugars, but some good options might include the Walden Farms range of sauces  and the Fountain ‘No Added Sugar Smart’ sauces: Tomato and BBQ.

In summary, it’s okay to have small amounts of what you like if you really want them, but is better if you can find fresher, healthier alternatives or modify what you like to make the most of it while still considering your health. Hoping you found these ideas helpful.

We’d love you to share your own ideas below in the comments section to help others find healthier options for favourite sauces, dressings and the like.  Thank You! Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. 


  1. Maureen Grantham on August 4, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Mash a ripe avocado up with a little olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning and stir through salad.

    • Sally on August 4, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Maureen – lovely idea. The avocado is full of nutrition and good fats and sits perfectly with the lemon flavour for salads, as well as for a spread on toast. Yum yum 🙂

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