With Labor Day just around the corner, it’s safe to say it’s time to stock up on hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, corn, and other barbecue favorites. Now, to combine your holiday favorites, you’ll want condiments like ketchup, mustard, and especially barbecue sauce. Whether it’s ribs or hamburgers, BBQ sauce is the perfect condiment to add some sweetness and smokiness. While it may be delicious, it’s not always the best choice for your health. Here’s how to spot the unhealthiest barbecue sauces on the shelves.
“Many ready-made barbecue sauces are loaded with added sugars and sodium,” says Danielle McAvoy, a culinary RD and Senior Manager of Nutrition for Territory Foods. “Any barbecue sauce that contains high fructose corn syrup should be shelved. Many also contain chemicals like caramel coloring and preservatives that should be avoided.”
With that in mind, here it is nine of the worst barbecue sauces on grocery store shelves based on sodium content and added sugar you might want to stay away from on your next shopping spree.
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French’s Cattlemen’s Kansas City Classic BBQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (37 g)): 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 1 g protein
Of any barbecue sauce on this list, this one has the highest sodium content with about 20 percent of the daily recommended value in just two tablespoons. If you’re looking to limit your sodium intake either to lower blood pressure or for general health, you should avoid this condiment at the grocery store.
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Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 0 g protein
The American Heart Association recommends an added sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) for most adult women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams sugar) for most men.
Breanna Woods, MS RD, registered dietitian for Blogilates, points out that this barbecue sauce has 16 grams of added sugar on top of 13% of the daily recommended value for sodium in just two tablespoons. That’s more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut and a half! Step away from that barbecue sauce when that craving hits.
Heinz Original Sweet&Hick BBQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (37 g)): 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 0 g protein
McAvoy says as a general rule of thumb, the lower the added sugar the better—with 4 grams or less per serving being ideal. This barbecue sauce has almost triple the amount and 70 calories per serving. The sodium level isn’t horrible at about 12% of the recommended daily value, but you’ll need to watch the portion size.
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Authentic Kraft Slow Simmered BBQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 0 g protein
The first ingredient on that nutrition label is high fructose corn syrup, which already raises a red flag according to McAvoy. “Look for brands that do not list a type of sugar (such as brown sugar, syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) as the first ingredient and instead list a whole food, such as tomatoes (crushed or paste),” says. Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, nutritionist and co-founder of MIJA. While the sodium number isn’t that alarming at about 350 milligrams, it’s still a decent amount for two tablespoons.
Great value authentic BBQ sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 0 g protein
Although you can get this barbecue sauce at an unbeatable price, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. With 11 grams of added sugar, that’s a fifth of the daily recommended value in just two tablespoons. Plus, its first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which you’ll want to avoid if you can.
365 By Whole Foods Authentic BBQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 50 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (0 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 0 g protein
Don’t let the Whole Foods brand fool you because there’s still a significant amount of added sugar in this barbecue sauce—about one-fifth of the daily recommended value. With that being said, the first ingredient is tomato puree and not some kind of sugar that gives it strength over the competition.
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Stubb’s Original Bar-BQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 30 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 0 g protein
The first ingredient in this barbecue sauce isn’t sugar, so it’s definitely not the worst, according to Koszyk. However, it contains different gums that are not good for your digestive system and can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and loose stools.
Seed&Harvest Original BBQ sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (36 g)): 35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (0 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 0 g protein
Of any barbecue sauce, Seed&Harvest’s has the lowest sodium content and relatively low amount of added sugar. As Koszyk mentioned, it’s best if the ingredient label lists a whole food as the first ingredient, and this sauce has apple juice concentrate, apple cider vinegar, and tomato paste.
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Annie’s Organic Original BBQ Sauce
per serving (2 tablespoons (34 g)): 35 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 0 g protein
This organic barbecue sauce has the least added sugar and sodium, making it the least unhealthy on this list. With that said, it’s the only sauce with a gram of fat per serving that you should keep in mind as you shop. Also, the first ingredient is water, so don’t expect a thick and rich barbecue sauce experience with this product.