Food Comparison

May 2009 Issue

Think Red, Not Pink or White, for a Healthful Pasta Sauce

It’s been 85 years since Chef Hector Boiardi packaged and sold his restaurant’s popular seasoned tomato sauce, along with pasta and grated cheese—all for 66 cents. Because his name was difficult to pronounce, he called it Chef Boyardee. Today, convenience, economy and family-wide appeal are still three main reasons why store-bought sauces sell well. But they can be nutritious too; tomato-based sauces are an excellent source of the carotenoid lycopene. A little fat in the sauce—or elsewhere in the meal—aids absorption of this powerful antioxidant. Store shelves these days include organic sauces, "no salt added" options and innumerable variations with onions, garlic, mushrooms, spinach or peppers, all of which add flavor and nutrition. But watch out for hidden dangers, like sky-high sodium levels and added sugar. Beware the new trend of restaurant sauce wannabes, like Alfredo and vodka sauces; often they are too high in fat and calories. The latest packaging innovation features sauces in microwavable pouches. Touted for their convenience, these plastic pouches are not recyclable and are twice the price of jarred sauces.

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