I had a request to do a Grocery Store Spotlight on spaghetti sauces. So last night I made a Kroger run to do some research, and I gotta admit, I was pretty surprised by my findings. I always just assumed that marinara sauce was just a bunch of stewed tomatoes, tomato paste and some spices, but after comparing the labels, I now know that not all spaghetti sauces are created equal, and food companies are sneaking in some ingredients that you wouldn’t expect.
There are tons of brands to choose from, so I’m just going to compare the most popular ones, but hopefully this post will help you know what to look for next time you’re shopping for an Italian feast!
I’ve now concluded that the two make-or-break things we need to look for when evaluating a spaghetti sauce label is the amount of sugar and what kind of oil is used. Look for the brands with fewer grams of sugar per serving and made with extra virgin olive oil over Canola oil (hydrogenated) or soybean oil (Click here to recall why we should avoid soy.) Also, avoid the cheese varieties and instead go for the ones with added veggies! Choosing organic is always a good idea as well.
Prego Traditional: There are 10 grams of sugar in just half a cup, and it contains Canola oil. Don’t be fooled by the “100% natural” on the label or the cheaper price tag – this is one of the worst brands you can select!
Organic Ragú Traditional: This particular brand holds 8 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving and contains both extra virgin olive oil and soybean oil. It’s a step up from the Prego, but it’s still not the best choice, despite the fact that it’s labeled organic.
Classico Tomato and Basil: There are 5 grams of sugar in 2/3 a cup, and it only contains olive oil (not extra virgin). So that’s less than half the sugar content of the Prego and it doesn’t contain the hydrogenated oil! A much better choice in my opinion!
Newman’s Own Marinara: I think of Newman’s Own as a high-quality brand, so I was surprised to see that it contains the most sugar per serving of any of the brands I investigated, with 11 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving. It also contains both extra virgin olive oil and soybean oil.
Muir Glen Organic Chunky Tomato and Herb: It contains only 5 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving, and it’s organic naturally milled sugar. Contains NO canola or soybean oil, only organic extra virgin olive oil. All the ingredients are organic. You can usually find this brand in the natural section of your grocery store.
Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara: There are 7 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving. It contains both extra virgin olive oil and soybean oil. This is the brand I’ve been buying for the last several months, but I’m making a switch!
So the winners for healthiest spaghetti sauce brands are the Muir Glen and the Classico. The Muir Glen will probably be a dollar or so more expensive since it’s all organic, so you have to decide whether it’s feasible for your family. In my opinion, it’s worth it to pay a bit more just to know that you’re consuming a high-quality fat and half the sugar of some of the other brands out there.
Make sure you make the wisest and most natural choice possible next time you prepare an Italian meal for your family. Ditch those sugary brands and save it for the Tiramisu! If anybody finds a brand with even less sugar content than the Muir Glen or the Classico, please let me know, but make sure it’s made with a quality oil as well!
I’m learning just as much from these Grocery Store Spotlights as you are (Although I got the strangest looks when other shoppers saw me taking pictures of the spaghetti sauces last night!) . It’s really helping me be more aware of labels and choose which brands are best for me. Now I can’t feel good about buying Ritz Crackers or Prego ever again!