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Our Picks for the Best Healthy Pasta Sauces

By Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D., March 12, 2014 - 9:26am

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It’s hard to beat the ease of opening a jar (unless, of course, it’s screwed on super-tight) to help bring pasta night together in a flash. To find a sauce that’s good for you, here’s what you need to know.

1. Calorie counts
Who knew something that’s predominantly tomatoes could vary so greatly? Sauces on the shelf have anywhere from 40 to 110 calories per ½-cup serving, depending on how much oil is added and how thick the sauce is.

2. The variations
Different flavors by the same brand can have very different ingredients and nutrition stats, so check the labels even when choosing between almost identical-looking sauces.

3. Money matters
You get what you pay for. The premium brands ($7-9) we tested had cleaner ingredient lists and tasted better than the $3-4 sauces.

4. Watch the salt
Many sauces clock in at 500 mg or more per ½-cup serving (about 20% of your daily limit).

5. Not too sweet
Pasta sauce is naturally sweet (tomatoes contain the sugar fructose), but some sauces have added sugar. To keep sugar as low as possible look for a sauce where sugar by any name—for example, some contain evaporated cane juice or honey—either isn’t on the ingredient list or is toward the bottom.

Brands to Try:
We sampled plain marinaras that met our nutrition guidelines. We thought lower-sodium options might be lacking in taste, but were pleasantly surprised to find some healthy sauces with plenty of flavor. Brands we liked: Amy’s Light in Sodium Family Marinara, Dell’Amore Original Recipe and Victoria Low Sodium Marinara.

Don't Miss: Healthy Homemade Pasta Sauces

TAGS: Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D., Food Blog, Diet, Dinner, Family meals, Good choices, Health, Taste test

Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D.
Lisa D'Agrosa is EatingWell's associate nutrition editor. She earned her master's degree in nutrition communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and attended the dietetic internship program at Massachusetts General Hospital to become a registered dietitian.

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