Monday, April 21, 2014
wholefood step-by-step: # 16 choose the best quality tomato sauce you can find
Most kids love tomato sauce. Well, truth be known it is probably the high amounts of salt and sugar in it that has them hooked. Rather than tell you to stop buying it completely my approach is always to help you make better choices, I want this wholefood thing to feel easy.
So, when it comes to buying any processed food the first step is to read the ingredients. Don't be lured in by marketing claims on the front sticker with words like 'natural', '50% less salt' and so on, read the actual ingredients and if you see lots of numbers or don't recognise the names of the ingredients, take that as a clear sign to put it back on the shelf and find one that contains only real food.
For example the tomato sauce in the picture above, the ingredients are organic and are listed as follows: tomato paste, vinegar, agave syrup, rice flour, sea salt, pectin, onion powder, garlic, paprika powder.
Agave is something I don't typically use but as tomato sauce is an occasional food for us I looked past it in this case, and onion powder sounds a bit weird and processed but again as our consumption of this is minimal I am not being pedantic.
The Nutrition Info
Once you've read the ingredients, look at the nutrition panel. Reading this info takes a bit of concentration but once you know what you're looking for it becomes quicker. The information contained in the nutrition label is useful for making comparisons between brands, the key is to make sure you are comparing the same quantity in serving sizes.
For example, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. The sugar content in the sauce pictured is 3.7g per 34g serving. When I compared that to one of the big brands the sugar content in the big brand was 4.4g per 15g serving. So you can see that the big brand sauce contains over double the amount of sugar per serve. You can do the same comparison for salt which is listed as sodium.
The Absolute Organic tomato sauce I purchased cost $5.96 for 340g, compared to $2.96 for 500ml for the big brand. I bought the sauce at a small independent grocer so the prices are higher than if I bought it in a bigger store, and because it costs more it is good incentive to use it sparingly!
Make Your Own
The other option of course, is to make your own then you know exactly what is in it. A quick and easy way, inspired by Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar tomato sauce recipe is to use one can of tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of sweetener of your choice such as rice malt syrup or honey and simmer this over a low heat for about 10 minutes, allow to cool and then blend until smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Last week I had half a jar of tomato paste left over (about 200g) and I added some apple cider vinegar and simmered it, I didn't add any sweetener and I served that on a vegetable pie, my boys loved it.
Tips for reducing the amount of sauce your family eats
If your family is in the habit of eating tomato sauce at most meals and you would like to change that habit, here are a couple of ways you can go about it.
1. You can explain that tomato sauce has a lot of sugar and salt in it and that eating a lot of sugar and salt is not helpful for our bodies to be the best that they can be. Tell your family that as the parent, it is your job to make sure everyone eats great food that helps our bodies be the best that they can be. Then explain that tomato sauce is a sometimes food and they can choose two or three foods that they would like to eat it with.
2. If tomato sauce has become a problem - ie. there are regular tears and tantrums about it - I suggest to stop buying it for a while. If that feels like a bold move and makes you anxious, I understand! Too much sauce hasn't been a problem in my house but other behaviours come up that have to change, and the change has been accompanied by tears. That is all part of the less fun side of parenting! In my experience with this what generally happens is there is a want - ie. tomato sauce, snack before dinner or bed, ice cream, insert your own words - and if the answer is 'no' and the response is tears, it brings up emotion in me, I have had to learn to just let the emotion wash over me and know it will pass. As we know in parenting, the key to success is making your stand, knowing your decision is for the best and sticking to it. Children let go of emotions very quickly, they move through them (it is we adults that become good at hanging on to our feelings!) We have all witnessed our children go from laughing to crying back to laughing in minutes, you can witness the same response when changing food 'rules'.
They will get over not having sauce on everything and it will give them a chance to experience the real taste of the food, get them excited about making their own!
I hope this is helpful. If you have a friend who may benefit from reading this please share it with them and as always tell us your experiences in the comments.
*Oh and a tip about leaving comments, a few friends have mentioned they haven't a clue how to do it so I thought I'd explain...go to the end of the post and click where you see comments it will either say 'No comments' or have a number ' 2 comments' this will take you to the comment box, enter your comment and then where it says 'comment as' click on the drop down box and if you don't have a Google account just select 'anonymous' (you can type your name at the end of your comment if you want to) then hit publish.
**disclosure - if you buy Sarah's cookbook via the link I get a small commission. While I'm not into an all or nothing approach to sugar, I do have this book and am happy to recommend it for its recipes that are useful when transitioning to a wholefoods way of life.