It’s one of the most popular condiments in the pantry. But it turns out a humble squirt of tomato sauce could be giving you more sugar and salt that you thought. This is especially important to monitor in little kids, who are have lower sodium needs and tend to love sauce on everything!
Although it’s mostly tomatoes, tomato sauce contains a lot of sugar and salt. The nutritional value of condiments, like tomato sauce, is often ignored because so little is used on our food. However, having witnessed first hand just how much sauce gets squeezed onto dinner plates around the country, I think it’s worth choosing the healthiest option for your family .
I’ve gathered a list of the most common supermarket brands and compared them for sugar, sodium (salt) and the percent of tomatoes. Keep in mind that naturally, pureed tomatoes contain around 3.8g sugar per 100g. Anything over this is likely to be added sugar in tomato sauce.
Sugar and sweeteners
Also worth noting is the increasing number of sauces that contain artificial sweeteners and stevia. They’re trying to address demand for reduced sugar by replacing it with these options. I’d much rather them either formulate less sweet products; or use fruit and vegetables to sweeten instead.
Sweeteners (natural or artificial) aren’t necessary, especially for kids. They do nothing to reduce our highly sweetened foods. They can be helpful for some adults as a short term “step” to reducing sugar. However, some research shows that when we eat sweet foods without any kilojoules (calories), our body is confused when the energy doesn’t arrive. We often end up eating those kilojoules from somewhere else to compensate- because we don’t feel full. If anything, the sweetness provided here is a bit of a trick for our kids and their bodies, which may play a role in them having difficult regulating their satiety, which isn’t really what we want.
Additionally, when consumed in large amounts, sweeteners like the polyols can cause abdominal discomfort, wind and may have a laxative effect.
In the comparison table, I’ve indicated those with added artificial sweeteners and stevia with an asterisk next to the grams of sugar.
The worst tomato sauce
The worst offender was Coles Tomato Ketchup. A level tablespoon (20ml) is going to give you a heaped teaspoon teaspoon of sugar (5.7g) and 210mg of sodium. That’s a 3 year old’s daily adequate intake (minimum) of sodium and a fifth of their daily upper level of intake (maximum)!
Use this table to see how your families sauce stacks up against the rest. You can toggle each column to rearrange the table by brand, % tomatoes, sugar, sodium and price. If you’re viewing this on mobile, rotate your phone to landscape to see all the columns.
|Brand||% Tomatoes||Sugar (g) per 100ml||Sodium (mg) per 100ml||Price ($) per bottle|
|Beerenberg Tomato Sauce||62||19.0||380||4.75|
|Celebrate Health Tomato Sauce||22||5.5*||742||5.00|
|Coles Tomato Ketchup||74||28.5||1050||2.50|
|Coles Tomato Sauce||78||24.6||720||1.50|
|Fountain Tomato Sauce Reduced Sugar||84||5.4*||575||2.00|
|Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup||78||24.9||1220||3.20|
|Heinz Tomato Ketchup||77||25.8||815||3.20|
|Heinz Tomato Ketchup 50% Less Added Sugar & Salt||79||12.1*||395||3.20|
|Masterfoods Tomato Sauce||77||24.4||827||2.95|
|Masterfoods Tomato Sauce Hidden Veg||73||16.2||600||3.15|
|Masterfoods Tomato Sauce Reduced Salt & Sugar||85||16.0||596||2.95|
|Rosella Organic Tomato Sauce||78.0||23.8||858mg||6.00|
|Rosella Tomato Sauce||76||22.7||1360||2.30|
|Toscano Sugo Cherry Tomato (pasta sauce)||82||7.0||193||4.00|
|Woolworths Tomato Sauce||78||20.4||677||1.50|
Note: The Celebrate Health brand reported the content of tomato paste (concentrate) in their ingredients, however other brands reported the reconstituted amount. It is likely that % of tomatoes in Celebrate Health Tomato Sauce is around 70% which is comparable to the other brands.
The healthiest tomato sauce
I’m really disappointed with the variety of Tomato Sauce options we have in Australian supermarkets. I thought there would be more reduced sugar options without sweeteners.
You may have noticed that I threw in an alternative option; Toscana Cherry Tomato Sugo. This one is my Wild Card and my winner. I know, I’ve cheated, it’s a pasta sauce. But, it is delicious as a dipping sauce and it’s much lower in sugar and sodium that regular tomato sauce. I highly recommend this one if you have kids who like to have a lot of sauce on their plates.
The bottle should be used within 7 days, but the sauce can be frozen in ice-cube trays so you always have some on hand.
If you wanted a traditional tomato sauce that’s going to last longer in fridge, one of the better sauces with no sweeteners/stevia was the Masterfoods Tomato Sauce Reduced Salt & Sugar. A 20mL serve will give you 3.2g of sugar, just under a teaspoon. It wasn’t the least in sodium (but also not the worst) with 596mg per 100mL. Ignore the front of pack marketing highlighting the vegetable content; a tablespoon of sauce isn’t going to significantly boost your veggie intake!
If you were feeding littlies or needed low sodium options, and don’t mind a little extra sugar, my recommendation is the Beerenberg Tomato Sauce.
How does your family’s usual sauce stack up? Is it time to make a switch?
You may also like to see my Top 5 Healthiest Kid’s Cereals where I compare the most popular 24 cereals marketed to children.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist with a decade of experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and can help the overwhelm of eating and living well with private consultations, email Q&A and her school lunchbox ebook. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.