When you glance at the label of Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce, it’s easy to think you’re making a healthy choice. The images of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil make it seem as if it’s overflowing with fresh nutritious ingredients. It even boasts TWO SERVINGS OF VEGETABLES (the label says so!) and an endorsement from the American Heart Association.
So it must be good for you, right?
Well, not quite.
Sadly, there’s more to the story than just the glamour shot on the front of the jar.
The real truth can be found on the BACK of the bottle
That label on the front of the jar is there for marketing purposes. You’ll have to look deeper. You’ll need to spin the jar around and look at the back, at the nutritional label, for the complete story.
Here are the ingredients:
- Tomato paste
- Diced tomatoes (tomatoes, tomato juice, citric acid, calcium chloride)
- Dehydrated garlic
- Canola oil
- Onion powder
- Sea salt
- Citric acid (for tartness)
- Parsley flakes
It’s not the worst nutritional label we’ve seen. Not by far. But there are two concerning ingredients in that list, sugar and canola oil. And here’s why…
The case against added sugar in your spaghetti sauce
Ingredients on nutrition labels are listed by how much of it is in the product. So in this case, there’s more tomato paste than anything else in Prego Traditional Sauce. And that’s good. We want to see tomatoes, or at least a tomato product at the top of the list. But it’s where the sugar lands on that ingredient list that’s problematic.
Generally speaking, the top 4 ingredients listed make up the greatest volume of the product – which means there’s way too much added sugar in this supposedly healthy sauce.
Want to get specific? Look at the rest of the nutritional label. There are 10 grams of sugar per ½ cup serving. So if you only eat half a cup of sauce over your pasta, you’re automatically getting 10 grams of sugar.
But the daily recommended limits of sugar are in teaspoons. Women are only supposed to consume 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and men are only supposed to get 9.
How many people really understand how many grams of sugar equal how many teaspoons? Not most folks. In fact, even we had to look it up.
Turns out, there are 4 grams of sugar in a single teaspoon. So, for women, a half-cup serving of so-called “heart healthy” Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce has almost half of the recommended daily intake of! And that same serving gets a man 1/3 of the way there for his daily sugar intake.
Now to be fair, two other ingredients at the top of the list, tomato paste and diced tomatoes are naturally high sugar as well. So that 10 grams isn’t all added sugars. But because tomatoes ARE naturally high in sugar that means there’s absolutely no reason to dump extra sugar into the mix.
Here’s the clincher – even if you’re eating a healthy diet otherwise if you’re eating too much sugar, your health is still at risk. According to a major, 15-year study, people who were eating a healthy diet overall, but had too much added sugar in their diets still had “higher cardiovascular mortality.” In other words, they were more likely to die from heart disease.
Prepared processed foods are full of “hidden” added sugars, so Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce has got a lot of company. But all those sources of additional sugar add up and you should try to avoid them whenever possible. Since spaghetti sauce certainly doesn’t need them it’s a great place to start.
The “healthy oil” that isn’t
Any cook will tell you that a little added fat can take a spaghetti sauce from so-so to downright delicious. And most people are under the impression that canola oil is a healthy choice.
If you’re one of those people, we have bad news. Most canola oils come with health risks you may not have heard about.
First, any canola oil that’s not labelled “organic” likely comes from GMO crops. In fact, about 90 percent of all canola oil from the United States AND Canada is GMO. This means, of course, you’re potentially being exposed to dangerous glyphosates and other unknown dangers every time you take a bite of any product made with canola oil.
Since the canola oil listed in the ingredients list of Prego Traditional Spaghetti Sauce isn’t organic there’s a good chance that it’s GMO. But that’s not the only problem with the canola oil in Prego – or the only potential source of toxins.
Traditional canola oil is processed using chemicals that are known to be toxic. And while some say that none of those chemicals remain in the final product not everyone agrees that canola is safe, and questions still remain.
Cold-pressed or express-pressed canola oil isn’t exposed to these chemicals during processing, but the canola oil in Prego isn’t labelled as being either.
In addition vegetable oils, like canola oil, are high in omega-6s, which promote inflammation. Eating too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s is linked to all kinds of diseases from heart disease to type-2 diabetes.
Healthy spaghetti sauce alternatives
Spaghetti sauce, done the right way, is healthy…
- Lycopene-rich tomatoes can help fight off free-radicals and support prostate health.
- Allicin-filled garlic is an antioxidant that can reverse inflammation.
- Basil is heart healthy and vitamin-packed parsley supports healthy kidneys.
- And the polyphenols and essential fatty acids in olive oil support healthy blood pressure and a healthy cardiovascular system.
Why not skip out on the added sugars and questionable ingredients and make your own delicious spaghetti sauce at home> And don’t worry, it’s really NOT complicated and it doesn’t take a long time.
In fact, you can whip up a batch of simple sauce in about the same amount of time it takes to boil water and cook your pasta!
Below is a basic recipe to get you started, but feel free to build on this adding the fresh organic ingredients and flavorings your family enjoys.
|Healthier Homemade Spaghetti Sauce|
|You can whip up this delicious nutritious sauce in less than a half hour!
• Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Sauté the garlic.
• Add all the other ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.
• Once at a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes.
• Serve over your favorite whole wheat pasta or spaghetti squash!
Be as healthy as you mean to be – leave the Prego on the store shelf and make it homemade.