These Are the Worst Pasta Sauces on the Planet
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.
Emeril's Tomato and Basil
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.
Emeril's Alfredo Sauce
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.
Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato & Basil
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…
Ragu Roasted Garlic Parmesan
At first glance, you think you're only consuming under 100 calories, but keep in mind this serving size is just for a quarter cup, which is standard for Alfredo sauces. But we all know how easy it is to end up pouring out more than that! Double up on your serving size and you'll be taking in nearly 200 calories, without even accounting for the pasta that will go along with it. Just go easy on how much you're using.
Francesco Rinaldi Traditional Flavors Sweet & Tasty Tomato
"Sweet & 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 per half cup isn't worth it when splurging on a carb-filled dish.
Emeril's Homestyle Marinara
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.
Prego Lower Sodium Traditional
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 to 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.
Bertolli Vodka Sauce
Unfortunately, one serving of this Bertolli sauce is even saltier than a serving of Rold Gold Tiny Twist Pretzels. Yikes.
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.
Newman's Own Vodka Sauce
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 to mention, it's drenched in fat.
Ragu Chunky Six Cheese
This sauce choice has inflammatory soybean oil listed on the ingredients and it contains more sodium than two bags of Lay's Chips. Not great to see!
Bertolli Organic Traditional Tomato & Basil
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.
Mid's Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce
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.
Barilla Traditional Basil Pesto
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.
Cucina Antica Tomato Basil
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.
Amy's Light in Sodium Family Marinara
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.
Newman's Own Organics Marinara
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.
Victoria Tomato Basil
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.
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.
Thrive Market Organic Vodka Pasta Sauce
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.
Classico Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions Pasta Sauce
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.
Trader Joe's Vegan Kale, Cashew, & Basil Pesto
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.
Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce
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.
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.