After a client recently asked for my recommendation for my favorite pasta sauce without added sugar, I paused and realized it was time to do some research again.
It had been awhile since I had taken a look at what was out on the market and my old favorite had changed their recipe.
Unfortunately, this happens often in the food industry, making this a good chance for me to remind you to re-check labels on your favorite products from time to time!
What I thought would be a quick research project quickly escalated. My friend and fellow health coach, Mary Jo McVay, joined me as we embarked on a multi-week, multi-store search for the best pasta sauces with “clean” ingredients.
While we were quickly humbled by how many brands of pasta sauce on the market there were, but we were fascinated what we found.
The good news? There are some really great products on the market! The bad news? They are literally surrounded by products that do have added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy oils.
We were especially disappointed to find added sugars in Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Kirkland (Costco) pasta sauces, some of our favorite places to shop. We were thrilled, though, to find clean, organic pasta sauces made by Whole Food’s 365 Organic and Safeway/Acme’s O Organics that offer great prices in comparison to some of the boutique brands.
To help you streamline your shopping next time you are looking for pasta sauce, we put together the following guide to help you know what to look for on a label next time you go to the grocery store, as well as our 6 top healthy pasta sauce picks to add to your grocery list.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A HEALTHY PASTA SAUCE
Here are some tips for ingredients and nutritional information to watch out for when you buy pasta sauce. In order of importance, look for…
+ Added Sugars/Sweeteners – Since tomatoes can be acidic, sugar can often a common ingredient in jarred tomato sauce, but it’s not necessary! When shopping for a tomato sauce, look at the ingredients for added sugar or other sweeteners and try to opt for a brand with NO added sugars.
+ Quality of Oils – Many brands use cheap and highly processed vegetable oils in their sauces such as canola or soybean oil. Look for a brand that uses olive oil as an ingredient!
+ Sodium – There can be a huge variety in sodium content between tomato sauce brands so be sure to take a look at the sodium content on the label when comparing brands and opt for the lower sodium option
+ Organic – Reduce your exposure to pesticides by choosing an organic product when possible!
+ Additives – When possible, try to choose a brand free from common additives. The two additives you’ll often see in tomato sauce are citric acid and calcium chloride. Here is what they are used for…
Citric Acid – Manufactured citric acid is one of the most common food additives in the world. It’s used to boost acidity, enhance flavor, and preserve ingredients
Calcium chloride – is used in salt processing to add a salty taste to pickles and other foods without increasing sodium content. Spraying fruit and vegetables with calcium chloride increases firmness and shelf life. The levels of nutritional calcium in frozen fruit and vegetables can be enhanced by processing with calcium chloride.
Basically you are looking for good, clean whole food ingredients. You know, those ingredient names you actually recognize.
Below you will find my top 6 favorite healthy pasta sauce options based on our research. These should be reasonably easy to find at your local grocery stores!
Please note that availability may vary depending on your region. If you can’t find any of these products, use the guideline above to help support your grocery search!