Using Healthier Prepared Sauces and Pastes for Quick and Easy Meals
We all need a little help in the kitchen at times, so having a few healthier prepared sauces and pastes available in the pantry is a great strategy for making quick and easy meals. Despite being warned away from the center aisles of the grocery store, several jarred sauces and pastes found there can still fit into a healthy diet, with more good options becoming available all the time. Many of these products contain nutrients and seasonings similar to homemade. It just takes a few minutes of reading the nutrition labels while shopping to select the best options.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Consider these label reading tips when choosing prepared sauces and pastes:
- Read the ingredient list and choose products that are simple and straightforward. If you find a long list of additives and items you do not know or cannot pronounce, it’s probably not the best choice.
- Look for products with low or no added sugar (preferably less than 5g per serving) and a reasonable amount of sodium. Low sodium is defined as 140mg or less per serving (or 5% Daily Value), while high sodium is 400mg or more per serving (or 20% Daily Value).
- Check the serving size on the nutrition label and consider how much of the product will be used in your recipe. For example, if the label says 400mg of sodium for 2 tablespoons paste and you will only be using 1 tablespoon, that sodium amount falls into an acceptable range. However, if a jarred pasta sauce contains 400mg of sodium per ¼ cup serving, and you plan to use ½ cup sauce per serving, the total sodium intake will be double what is listed which is quite high.
A FEW RECOMMENDATIONS
Many prepared sauces and pastes available on the market represent a range of global cuisines making it quite easy to jazz up your weekly menus. Here are a few healthier options that I have found.
Marinara Pasta Sauce
These are basic seasoned tomato sauces that can be heated quickly while the pasta cooks to create a simple comfort meal. Or, doll them up a bit with sautéed or roasted vegetables, ground meat and/or a healthier sausage.
- Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Rao’s Homemade Sensitive Marinara
- Kirkland Signature Organic Marinara Sauce
- Victoria Low Sodium Marinara
- Wegmans Marinara Sauce
Thai Curry Paste
There are several varieties of Thai curry pastes available – Red, Yellow, Green, Massaman, Panang to name a few. They are generally made of dried chili peppers, lemon grass, shallots, garlic, shrimp or fish paste, galangal, kaffir lime, coriander, cumin, and sometimes turmeric. The level of spiciness varies by brand. Panang and Massaman are usually milder than Red, Yellow or Green curry. Sodium content can be high in some of these but generally falls into the acceptable range when divided by the entire batch and number of servings.
- Thai Kitchen – This paste can be found at most grocery stores or online. Although the nutrition values are good on this one, it is generally very mild and has the least flavor as far as Thai curry pastes go. To jazz it up a bit, add 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried curry powder when using this paste.
- Mae Ploy
- Mike’s Organic Curry Love
Indian Sauces and Pastes
It’s easy to create delicious Indian dishes at home with these simmer sauces and pastes. Add desired protein and vegetables, serve over brown rice or other whole grain and enjoy in less time than it takes to have take-out delivered!
- Maya Kaimal Simmer Sauces
- Saffron Road Simmer Sauces
- Patak’s Simmer Sauces and Pastes
Salsa Verde and Enchilada Sauces
There are quite a few nice brands of green and red sauces available for making enchiladas or other Mexican dishes, but here are some I especially enjoy.
- Frontera Tomatillo Salsa
- Herdez Salsa Verde
- Wegman’s Roasted Salsa Verde
- Hatch Red Chili Enchilada Sauce
What healthier quick and easy sauces and pastes do you use from the grocery store? We’d love to hear! Share them in the comments section.
© 2020 Susan Denzer, Love + Craft Kitchen, LLC, All Rights Reserved
photo: Clay Banks on Unsplash