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6 Healthiest Marinara Sauces on Grocery Shelves—and 4 to Avoid

Registered dietitians delve into the world of marinara sauces to help you make nutritious choices during your next grocery run.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino
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No pasta night is complete without marinara sauce. The thing is, not everyone has the time to make a traditional Sunday sauce that simmers on the stoves the entire day—and that's where store-bought marinaras come in handy. These convenient jars make pasta night a breeze, helping you get a quick dinner all while reaping the benefits this sauce has to offer. With a cooked tomato base, jarred marinara sauce delivers essential vitamin C, beneficial fiber for digestive health, and antioxidants like lycopene.

While a basic marinara sauce can be as straightforward as tomatoes and salt, the grocery store shelves present an array of options, each with its unique blend of ingredients and nutritional profiles. Some sauces go beyond simplicity, incorporating oils, added sugars, spices, and sodium to enhance their taste. However, adding too much of any of these ingredients can come at a nutritional cost, with potential impacts on overall health.

We spoke to dietitian experts to find out exactly what they recommend when shopping for marinara at the grocery store, and which brands they suggest you avoid. If you're looking for an easy way to upgrade your pasta game, choose from one of the healthier marinara sauces on this list.

How we chose the best marinara sauces

  • Total calories: Depending on the serving size, marinara can rack up more calories than you might think. Typically from added oil, cream, or sugar, this low-calorie sauce can quickly turn into a calorie-laden food.
  • Sodium: Sodium is a preservative, so you'll be hard-pressed to find tomato sauce with absolutely zero salt added; however, some marinas are higher and added salt than others. Keep in mind that the daily recommendation for added sodium is 2,300 milligrams per day.
  • Added sugar: Sugar might be added to cut the acid from the tomatoes in marinara sauce. However, you might find it surprising just how much added sugar can be packed into one serving of marinara. Look for options that are low in added sugar for the healthiest products.

Let's find out exactly which marinara sauces dietitians recommend at the grocery store.

6 Healthiest Marinara Sauces

Best: Barilla Traditional Tomato Pasta Sauce

Barilla Traditional Tomato Pasta Sauce
Barilla
Nutrition: 45 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein

With 45 calories per serving and less than 1 gram of total fat, Barilla makes a classic marinara sauce that is also healthy. With 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar, you'll also get a bit more stain power from the fiber and a natural sweetness from tomatoes. Even though this product contains 5 grams of total sugar, it contains 0 grams of added sugar.

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Best: Victoria Low Sodium Marinara Sauce

Victoria Low Sodium Marinara Sauce
Victoria Pasta Sauces
Nutrition: 70 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 1 g protein

Victoria Low Sodium Marinara Sauce is one of the healthier versions on Grocery shelves, says Michelle Rauch, MSc, RDN, of The Actors Fund. "This marinara is lower in sodium than most other brands. Diets high in sodium can lead to medical issues including high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke," she adds.

Best: Thrive Market Organic Classic Marinara Sauce

Thrive Market Organic Classic Marinara Sauce
Thrive Market
Nutrition: 70 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, .5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

Thrive Market, an online grocery store, makes their own line of marinara that looks deliciously healthy. With 70 calories per serving and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, you will get a serving of vegetables with this product. We also love that this product is low in sugar coming in at just 2 grams of total sugars per serving.

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Best: Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce

Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce
Amazon
Nutrition: 90 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

"Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce contains no added sugar and is made with avocado oil. Avocado oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which is beneficial for heart health," Wan Na Chun, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant for Health Insiders based in Indianapolis, IN explains.

Best: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

rao's homemade marinara sauce
Rao's
Nutrition: 100 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

Rao's Marinara Sauce is a bit higher in calories and total fat, but you'll find the fat source on the ingredient list delivers heart-healthy unsaturated fats to complement your pasta dish. A great serving of vegetables with no added sugar, Rao's offers both a delicious and healthy product.

Best: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pasta Sauce

365 whole foods market organic marinara sauce
Whole Foods Market
Nutrition: 60 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

Made with all organic ingredients, 365 Marinara Sauce by Whole Foods clocks in at just 60 calories and 2.5 grams of total fat. The sodium content is comparable to other options on the market, but you'll get 2 grams of fiber per serving and no added sugar.

4 Marinara Sauces to Avoid

Worst: Classico Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce

Classico Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce
The Kraft Heinz Company
Nutrition: 80 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.2g sat fat) 500 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 2 g protein

This marinara sauce appears to be generally lower in calories, however, when you take a closer look at the nutrition label you will find 500 milligrams of sodium per serving and 10 grams of sugars. When you consider that most people are consuming more than one half-cup serving of marinara at once, that is a lot of added sugars to rack up in one meal.

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Worst: Bertolli Tomato Basil Sauce

Bertolli Organic Marinara Sauce
Bertolli
Nutrition: 80 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 2 g protein

Similarly, this tomato sauce looks modest at 80 calories per serving, but with just 1 gram of fiber and 11 grams of total sugars, we think otherwise. While sugar in moderation is totally fine to include, if you're regularly eating pasta dishes with marinara, you could be taking in more added sugar than you realize with products like this.

Worst: Prego Creamy Tomato Basil Italian Sauce

Prego Creamy Tomato Basil
Campbells
Nutrition: 110 calories, 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein

With 3 grams of saturated fat, 460 mg sodium, and 9 grams of added sugar, this pasta sauce is one of the least healthy on our list. You will meet nearly a quarter of your recommended daily allowance for saturated fat in one serving of this pasta sauce.

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Worst: Francesco Rinaldi Sweet & Tasty Marinara Sauce

Francesco Rinaldi Sweet & Tasty Marinara Sauce
Francesco Rinaldi
Nutrition: 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 440 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 2 g protein

With 60 calories, this marinara from Francesco Rinaldi looks modest at first glance, however with 440 milligrams of sodium and 10 grams of sugar, it clocks in at the highest sugar options per one-half cup serving on our list. Plus, with nearly 20% of your daily sodium, pasta sauce like this can add up over time when it comes to your health.

Caroline Thomason, RDN, RD, LDN, CDCES
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more about Caroline
Sources referenced in this article
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