Dinner can be one of the most stressful times of the day as a parent. You’ve got hungry mouths to feed, and not much time to do it. This is often where a jar of pre-made pasta sauce appears to save the day – it’s quick, easy and tasty. But did you know it could also be putting you (and your family) at risk of developing high blood pressure?
You might be confused about how an innocent pantry staple such as a jar of pesto could be damaging your health, and rightly so. The answer lies in the salt content – studies have shown that pasta sauces can be loaded with it! Just like sugar and saturated fat, salt is hidden in many of the processed foods we eat every day, and it can have a dangerous impact on our health. Too much salt in our diets can lead to high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart attack, kidney disease and stroke.
Research has shown that the average pasta sauce contains 413mg of sodium per 100g – depending on how saucy you use on your pasta, you could be serving yourself up nearly a quarter of your daily maximum salt intake in just one meal. Suprisingly, pesto is one of the saltiest of the pasta sauces with an average of 969mg of sodium per 100g!
Pasta sauces aren’t the only culprits here – stir fry sauces, curry pastes and powdered meal-based sauces can be just as salty, if not worse! Some stir fry sauces contain over half of your daily maximum salt intake in just one serve; and many powdered meal-based sauces contain over a quarter.
But do not despair – you don’t have to give up these convenient dinner staples all together. You just need to scan the label to see what’s hiding inside these sauces. There are plenty of low (or lower) salt options on supermarket shelves. In fact, the salt content of sauces varies so much that some have 90 times more salt than others!
The only way to know how much salt is lurking in a product is to read the label. The best options have less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. If you can’t find a product with sodium that low, then look for one with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g as these are the next best options. You can learn all about how to read a label here.
If you’ve got a little more time up your sleeve, why not try making your own sauce? It can be as simple as adding diced tomatoes (the kind with no added salt), onion, garlic, herbs and your favourite veggies to a pot. Cook up a big batch on the weekend and freeze it for those times you’re in a rush. Check out our delicious, healthy pasta sauce recipe – it’s quick and easy and only has 26mg of sodium!