By Hannah Bank
Using off-the-shelf tomato sauce over cooked pasta is a fast and easy dinnertime solution, but is it healthy? That depends, says Toronto registered dietitian Shauna Lindzon. “While tomato sauce contains vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, fibre and lycopene [a powerful antioxidant that helps fight a growing list of cancers], read the nutrient profile and ingredients, and avoid high levels of sodium [no more than 400 mg per Â½ cup], sugar and saturated fat hidden in the sauce.” Here’s how some popular brands fared with Terry and Stephanie Dietrich and their three kids (twins Nicholas and Stuart, 8, and Rachel, 4) in Etobicoke, Ont. Buon appetito!
Healthy Choice Traditional
60 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (3 g fibre, 8 g sugar), 2 g protein per Â½ cup (125 mL). $3 per 700 mL jar
Our testers gave this sauce top marks for flavour and health. “It’s yummy and tastes just like at the restaurant,” says 8-year-old Stuart. Twin brother Nicholas was happily surprised by what he describes as “a zing at the end.” The verdict: Moderate in fibre and low in sodium, this is a smart choice. Because it’s fat-free, add a fat source such as lean ground meat to maximize lycopene absorption.
Simply Natural Organic Marinara
50 calories, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (2 g fibre, 3 g sugar), 1 g protein per 120 mL serving.
$5 per 739 mL jar
Stephanie was disappointed — “the jar looked so delicious but I didn’t like the taste.” The kids agree that it was “too tomatoey and the aftertaste is weird.” The verdict: This sauce has good nutritional value for consumers who opt for organic products. If you find that the sauce has a strong acidic flavour, try adding some cooked vegetables like red peppers or squash to cut down on the tartness and sneak in more vitamins.
Classico Tomato & Basil
60 calories, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fibre, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein per 125 mL serving. $4 per 700 mL jar
Aside from the “tomato chunks” that the kids tend to pick out, this sauce is a staple. Mom and Dad love it because there is no added refined sugar in the ingredient list (the only sugar comes from natural sources). The verdict: This sauce is your best bet. It’s low in sodium and sugar, and the only sauce that lists good-for-you olive oil as an ingredient. Finally, a heart-friendly choice that tastes fabulous, too.
100 calories, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fibre, 13 g sugar), 2 g protein per Â½ cup (125 mL). $3 per 675 mL jar
Although it tasted better with some Parmesan sprinkled on top, the family agrees that this sauce is too spicy and sugary. Mom Stephanie says it “tastes like ketchup.” The verdict: With corn syrup in the top three ingredients, avoid this sauce if you’re counting calories or concerned about sugar. It has double the calories compared with other brands, and tastes too sweet even for kiddie palates.
60 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 720 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fibre, 7 g sugar), 1 g protein per Â½ cup (125 mL). $2 per 700 mL jar
“This is yummy!” is what Terry had to say about this one. However, the sky-high levels of sodium are not recommended for anyone at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, or those allergic to sulphites. The verdict: Since it isn’t the healthiest option to feed your family, consider this sauce a once-in-a-while treat.
Boost the protein content of these vegetarian sauces with beans, lentils or lean meats