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The Unhealthiest Pasta Sauces On The Planet

Some sauces are best left bottled up.

When trying to drop those unwanted pounds, pasta isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind as a diet food. That's not too surprising, but it's important to note that the pasta itself isn't the sole waistline-widening problem; it's also what you're tossing on top of it.

That's right, we're talking about pasta sauce. It may be shocking to hear, but some of the most popular store-bought bottles are just bad news. That's because many manufactured bottles are made with a list of less-than-stellar ingredients like soybean oil, added sugars, excess sodium, and preservatives.

To help you avoid the worst of the bunch, we rounded up the unhealthiest pasta sauces on store shelves. To qualify for our list, these jars had to contain added sugars, use inflammatory vegetable oils instead of heart-healthy olive oil, and be saturated with belly-bloating salt.

See which sauces should never make their way into your shopping cart below, and be sure you're staying away from any of the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.

1

Ragu Old World Style Marinara

ragu marinara
Courtesy of Ragu
Per 1/2 cup: 80 calories, 2.5 (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein

Ragu explains that this is a rich, thick, and smooth recipe. After glancing at the ingredients list, we knew why. It appears the brand uses calcium chloride to keep the sauce nice and thick rather than by just adding more tomatoes. While the FDA claims this additive is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), we'd rather Ragu use more of the nutritionally-benefiting fruit. Research has shown that tomatoes help battle cancer, stop belly bloat, and can even help to prevent heart disease.

2

Emeril's Tomato and Basil

emerils tomato basil

Per 1/2 cup: 80 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 470 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein

Tomato Basil is a marriage and personal flavor profile we know and love. Yet, it's a bit discouraging to see the Italian celebrity chef uses more soybean oil in his formulation than traditional olive oil than an actual classic recipe would typically include. We can't be on board with that change since a review in the journal Nutrients suggests that consuming more omega-6 laden foods, such as soybean oil, than omega-3-laden foods can actually increase appetite and put you at risk for weight gain. In fact, the recipe uses more of the saturated fat than the

3

Emeril's Alfredo Sauce

emerils four cheese alfredo

Per 1/4 cup: 45 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein

We get it. Sometimes there is really nothing better than some creamy, delicious, cheese sauce. But this is not the way to do it. The celebrity chef crafts this bottle with plenty of additives like soybean oil and whey powder concentrate (yes, just like the protein powders you put in smoothies). And even worse, unlike a fresh version of a dairy-based sauce, this bottle dishes you little to no bone-strengthening calcium at all.

4

Ragu Old World Style Traditional

ragu traditional
Courtesy of Ragu
Per 1/2 cup: 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 480 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 2 g protein

Like its cousin, Old World Style Marinara, this sauce is far from "Traditional." This sauce hands you an excess amount of sugar and soybean oil. Did you know that by consuming too much soy you're prone to inflammation, gas, and weight gain? No thanks!

5

Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato & Basil

francesco rinaldi tomato basil tomato sauce jar

Per 1/2 cup: 60 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein

Fun fact: the founder of Francesco Rinaldi got his background by working for Ragu in his younger days. And despite his now home-team advantage, he couldn't live up to the well-known brand's reputation. In this case, the hearty sauce is a real heart-breaker! Just one serving holds more sodium than a large order of McDonald's fries

6

Ragu Roasted Garlic Parmesan

ragu roasted garlic parmesan
Courtesy of Ragu
Per 1/4 cup: 90 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 310 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 1 g protein

Ragu tried to fool you by printing their nutrition facts for a serving of 1/4 of a cup. So at first glance, you think you're only consuming under 100 calories, but that's just for a quarter cup. Double up on your serving size and you'll be taking in nearly 200 calories—that's a mini snack—without even accounting for the pasta that will go along with it.

7

Francesco Rinaldi Traditional Flavors Sweet & Tasty Tomato

rinaldi tomato
Courtesy of Instacart
Per 1/2 cup: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar) 2 g protein

Sweet and Tasty may sound great, but that's because it resembles something like dessert. A look at the label shows that this marinara sauce is made with an acceptable seven ingredients. But the whopping 11 grams of sugar it packs isn't worth it when splurging on a carb-filled dish.

8

Emeril's Homestyle Marinara

emerils homestyle marinara

Per 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein

We think "homestyle" should resemble the kind of food you could make with your very own ingredients. That means fresh ingredients, no preservatives, preferably flat-belly friendly. This sauce is quite the opposite thanks to its high amounts of soybean oil and sugar.

9

Prego Lower Sodium Traditional

prego lower sodium traditional

Per 1/2 cup: 70 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein

There's no doubt about it: Labeling food to be "heart smart" is a bold move. With a lower sodium count, this bottle of sauce seems not as bad compared to the other bottles Prego produces. But after sodium comes sugar. And in this case, this jar has a solid 9 grams. Not too mention the ingredients list shows excessive amounts of foods that cause inflammation like the omega 6's found in the canola oil. For all these reasons, this bottle isn't as heart-friendly as we'd like.

10

Bertolli Vodka Sauce

bertolli vodka sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 140 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 3 g protein

Unfortunately, one serving of this Bertolli sauce is even saltier than a serving of Rold Gold Tiny Twist Pretzels. Yikes.

11

Prego Traditional

Prego-traditional-pasta-sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 70 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein

Like its competitors, this sauce is far from the real deal. This sauce is void of the traditional extra virgin olive oil and only contains canola oil. But to make things even worse, the sauce has 10 grams of sugar–that's as much as Dunkin' Donuts' French Cruller.

12

Newman's Own Vodka Sauce

newmans own vodka sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 140 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein

We really do appreciate Newman's effort to nix the commonly used soybean oil, and eliminating additives. But a sauce like this adds too many calories to be in the clear. Not too mention, it's drenched in fat.

13

Ragu Chunky Six Cheese

ragu six cheese
Courtesy of Ragu
Per 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 3 g protein

Ragu knew what the deal was with this sauce. Choose this and you'll be "chunky." This choice also gives you a helping of fat from inflammatory soybean oil and it contains more sodium than two bags of Lay's Chips.

14

Bertolli Organic Traditional Tomato & Basil

bertolli tomato basil

Per 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein

Bertolli definitely took a step in the right direction by going organic. But that doesn't make up for the bottle's high serving of calories, fat, sodium, and sugar when compared to other brands.

15

Mid's Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

Mids italian sausage pasta sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 140 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 830 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 6 g protein

We give major kudos to Mid's for using the finest, locally raised USDA pork and quality romano cheese in their sauces, but we were surprised by the sky-high sodium levels. And considering tomato paste is the second ingredient and there are no diced tomatoes, that leads us to believe that most of the sugar in this jar is from the white stuff.

16

Barilla Traditional Basil Pesto

Barilla traditional basil pesto
Courtesy of Amazon
Per 1/4 cup: 200 calories, 19 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 600 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

At first glance, this pesto might sound like a great choice with the addition of spinach. But after carefully reading the ingredients list, this "traditional" pesto loads up on sunflower oil versus the classic extra-virgin olive oil. Not to mention, it's extremely high in calories for just a quarter cup serving and is filled with belly-bloating sodium.

Now, read on for the best pasta sauces.

1

Cucina Antica Tomato Basil

Per 1/2 cup: 45 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein

We're really wondering, can it get any better than this? Low in calories and made with simple ingredients, and no added sugar, this jar is just as good as homemade. Plus, you no longer have to cook for hours on edge. When you're looking for a go-to jar to always keep in your pantry, this is definitely the way to do it.

2

Amy's Light in Sodium Family Marinara

amys family marinara
Courtesy of Amy's
Per 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein

When looking for a sauce without the salt, choose Amy's Marinara above all else. Unlike many of its competitors, not only is this sauce void of any extra sodium, it's also free of any added sugars.

3

Newman's Own Organics Marinara

newmans own marinara

Per 1/2 cup: 80 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein

Newman's Own really outdid themselves with their organic sauce. Sure, 6 grams of sugar may sound semi-alarming at first, but a quick glance at the ingredients list quickly put your fears to rest. That's because this sauce is made with no added sugars. That means its nutritional data is sourced from tomatoes and pureed carrots. This sauce is also naturally low in salt, and the company didn't even try to use that as a marketing advantage. Kudos.

4

Victoria Tomato Basil

victoria tomato basil

Per 1/2 cup: 70 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

Victoria Marinara follows its catchphrase to a tee, "ingredients come first." Printed right on the face of their bottle, the ingredients are listed: "Whole tomatoes, onions, olive oil, salt, garlic, basil, spices." Kept au natural, this delicious sauce is made without the addition of any tomato paste, added sugar, water, or preservatives.

5

Prego Marinara

prego marinara

Per 1/2 cup: 70 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 2 g protein

Hats off to Prego for making a sauce with ingredients we can pronounce, and a list that's kept short. The only set back: the brand chose canola oil over the traditional extra virgin olive oil. But as we agree, all foods are fine in moderation. So, if you're a die-hard Prego fan, we'd say this sauce is a safe bet.

6

Thrive Market Organic Vodka Pasta Sauce

Thrive market organic vodka tomato pasta sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 120 calories, 10 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 1 g protein

While this vodka sauce is a little higher in calories (so use a light hand when dressing your noodles), we appreciate that Thrive uses wholesome ingredients and doesn't include any processed oils. Plus, there are zero added sugars, and all of the sugar content in this jar comes from organic tomatoes.

7

Classico Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions Pasta Sauce

classico italian sausage

Per 1/2 cup: 60 calories, 2 g fat (0 saturated fat), 500 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you're looking for a heartier pasta sauce, Classico folds in chunks of Italian sausage, green peppers, and onions. And while six grams of sugar might raise a semi-red flag, reading the ingredient list helps ease our anxieties: Tomato puree and diced tomatoes are at the top of the list, and sugar is listed as less than two percent. The sodium is a bit high for our liking though, so you'll want to keep that in mind.

8

Trader Joe's Vegan Kale, Cashew, & Basil Pesto

Vegan kale cashew basil pesto
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
Per 1/4 cup: 180 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (<1 g fiber, <1 g sugar, 0 g added sugar), 2 g protein

We promise you won't miss the Parmesan cheese in this flavorful and creamy pesto. Made with kale, olive oil, fresh basil, cashew butter, and garlic, this thick and bold-tasting sauce will bring your penne to life. If you're wondering why there's only a quarter cup per serving, it's because cashews are calorie-dense foods, and to be honest, a little goes a long way with this sauce. Not vegan? This sauce also goes great with grilled chicken, roasted salmon, and even steak.

9

Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

Per 1/2 cup: 100 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

We love that Rao's slow cooks their marinara sauce, which enhances the sweetness of the tomatoes and cuts down the acidity so there's absolutely no added sugars. It's also free of processed oils and additives so it gets an A+ from us.

10

Barilla Marinara

barilla marinara

Per 1/2 cup: 50 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 2 g protein

From pizza to pasta or even with grilled vegetables, this sauce seemed not as bad compared to its competitors on the shelves. Overall, it's relatively low in fat and even only uses extra virgin olive oil.

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