Tales of sinister goings on inside pasta sauce jars are rife. If you are to believe the Daily Mail, they are full of sugar and they may, basically, kill you. I say “Really???” In true dietitian style I’m going to challenge that. To be fair, most tomato based pasta sauces are a good choice, but if you are concerned about levels of sugar and salt, some are better than others.
So what should you look for when buying a pasta sauce?
- tomato based, rather than creamy or with mascarpone
- low sugar: less than 5g per 100g
- low salt: less than 0.3g per 100g
The Sugar Issue: yes, most tomato pasta sauces have some sugar added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. The tricky thing here is that even a whole tomato, straight from the plant, has naturally occurring sugars. So on the jar label if it says 5g of sugar, this does not mean that there is 5g (about a teaspoon) of white sugar added. About 3g of this will be natural sugar from the tomato. The remaining 2g may be from added sugar.
The Salt Issue: it is very hard to find a tomato pasta sauce than is low in salt (the ones marketed for kids usually are). Most of the jars that I have suggested below are ‘medium’ for salt.
You can of course make your own pasta sauce from scratch with tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, and some herbs, but sometimes that feels like a bit too much effort. One good tip to add more nutrition oomph and to reduce the concentration of salt is to open an extra tin of chopped tomatoes and add it to the jarred sauce.
Here are 5 great choices:
All figures are per 100g (roughly a portion)
Loyd Grossman Pasta Sauce – Tomato & Basil. 61 calories, 4.8g sugar, 0.8g salt Sugar is pretty low, the salt is a bit high but not terrible. There are no strange sounding ingredients – it’s all proper food. Ingredients: Tomato (61%), Tomato Purée, Garlic, Basil (2.6%), Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Ground Black Pepper.
Dolmio Low Fat. 33 calories, 4.2g sugar, 0.8g salt. Don’t let the name of this Dolmio sauce put you off. To be honest, I’m perplexed that it’s called ‘low fat’ as the Dolmio Original is also low in fat. The difference is that the ‘Dolmio Low Fat’ is a bit lower in sugar.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (81%), Tomato Paste (10%), Onion, Cornflour, Lemon Juice, Salt, Basil (0.3%), Sugar, Garlic, Parsley, Herb, Spices.
Tesco Goodness For Kids Pasta Sauce 51 calories, 3.6g sugar, 0.2g salt. Ohhh I’m loving this one. It has lots of different extra vegetables. It’s marketed for kids, but grown ups don’t let this put you off. Great ingredients, low in sugar and salt.
Ingredients: Tomato Purée, Carrot (20%), Red Pepper (10%), Lemon Juice From Concentrate, Yellow Pepper (5%), Onion (4%), Cornflour, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Garlic Purée, Sea Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Pepper
Sainsbury’s Light Tomato & Herb Pasta Sauce 28 calories, 4g sugar, 0.6g salt This ‘light’ version of Sainsbury’s own brand sauce is much lower in sugar than the standard ones.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (80%), Tomato Purée (13%), Water, Onions (1%), Onion Purée (1%), Maize Starch, Salt, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Sugar, Basil, Oregano, Garlic Purée, Olive Oil, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid, Ground Black Pepper.
ASDA Good & Counted Bolognese Pasta Sauce 27 calories, 4.1g sugar, 0.6g salt This ‘light’ version of Asda’s own brand sauce is much also much lower in sugar than the standard ones.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (80%), Concentrated Tomato Purée (14%), Lemon Juice from Concentrate, Water, Concentrated Apple Juice, Salt, Dried Onions, Basil Leaf, Garlic Purée, Oregano Leaf, Rapeseed Oil, Ground Black Pepper
This isn’t an exclusive list and there are many many other good ones out there. My aim is to take the confusion and indecision away when trying to choose.