Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, baked ziti…all classic comfort foods. But these days our hectic schedules don’t often allow us the time to simmer a big pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove to top that pasta. While most jarred pasta sauces can’t beat that homemade goodness, many come close enough to make do when you’re craving a little Italian flavor. But how can you choose the best jars in the spaghetti sauce aisle?
The two main ingredients of concern with prepared pasta sauces are sodium and sugar. Many food companies have done a good job at lowering high levels of both. However, some contain more than four teaspoons of sugar and one-third of a day’s worth of sodium in just a half cup. There are some benefits to choosing tomato-based pasta sauce, as it is a great source of the phytonutrient lycopene. Lycopene has been associated with lower risks of certain cancers, heart disease, and age-related eye conditions.
Helpful Hints. Keep the following in mind when you’re planning for comfort food via spaghetti sauce out of a jar.
Check Your Serving. The serving size for pasta sauce is one-half cup. It’s a decent amount, however it’s easy to go overboard when serving. Be aware if you’re dishing up more, you’ll also be getting more calories, sodium, and sugar.
Doctor It Up. You can easily boost the flavor and nutritional profile of your sauce. Try sautéing diced peppers and onions in the pot before adding the sauce, or add shredded carrots or zucchini as you heat it.
Fiber Boost. Most prepared pasta sauces are moderately low in fiber. To make up for that, try serving it with whole grain pasta.
—Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD
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