BBQ sauce is honestly the best way to add a little zest to any dish. That’s why there are so many different styles that have become universally beloved (hello, Korean BBQ!). Whether you’re used to sauces that are heavier on the vinegar, or you find yourself leaning more toward tomato-based sauces, there are some truly delicious options gracing grocery store shelves these days.
The only problem: All that flavor often comes with a boatload of unwanted ingredients. “You’ll find many barbecue sauces out there that contain significant amounts of added sugar,” says New York City-based plant-forward nutritionist Amy Gorin, RDN. “Some sauces even list it as the first ingredient.” Another issue: “Barbecue sauces can also contain significant amounts of sodium,” Gorin says.
The good news, though, is that a growing number of better-for-you BBQ sauces are popping up in the condiment aisle.
Thanks to these new-and-improved options, “you can actually get nutrition from barbecue sauce,” Gorin says. “Many contain tomato puree, which offers the antioxidant lycopene. Others, meanwhile, are made with spices such as turmeric, which offers anti-inflammatory benefits.”Before putting a bottle in your cart, Gorin recommends scoping out the sugar and sodium content. “Choose one that doesn’t have sugar as a first ingredient,” she says. The sweet stuff can appear as straight sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, and maple syrup, among other sneaky disguises.
Ideally, a serving of sauce will come with less than eight grams of sugar. (Sadly, your beloved Sweet Baby Ray’s packs twice that.) When it comes to sodium, “try to choose one that contains less than 10 percent of the daily value of sodium (230 milligrams) per serving,” she suggests.
The next time you’re craving something sweet-spicy, grab one of these nutritionist-approved bottles of healthier BBQ sauce.
1 Fody “Feelin’ Saucy” Barbecue Sauce
Fody Food Co amazon.com $24.49 $18.98 (22% off) SHOP NOW
Whether or not you’re on a low-FODMAP diet, Gorin likes this onion- and gluten-free sauce for anyone who gets frequent heartburn or doesn’t want too much spice.
Though a little higher in sugar than some, its first ingredients are crushed tomatoes and cider vinegar, which means you still score plenty of nutrition.
Per serving: 35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 9 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 95 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
2 Mango Jalapeno BBQ Sauce
Primal Kitchen target.com $4.79 SHOP NOW
Looking for something different? Gorin loves that this spicy sauce gets its sweetness from mango and its heat from fresh jalapeño. It’s also gluten-free, added sugar-free, and Whole30-approved!
Per serving: 30 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 5 g sugar, 190 mg sodium, <1 g fiber, <1 g protein
3 Good Food For Good Organic Classic BBQ Sauce
GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD amazon.com $11.95 SHOP NOW
This simple barbecue sauce gets tons of flavor from tomato paste, sweetness from dates, and the perfect balance of spice from onion powder, mustard, and garlic powder.
Oh, it also happens to be organic and Whole30-compliant, Gorin says.
Per serving: 20 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 5 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 130 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 0 g protein
4 Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce
instacart.com $2.54 SHOP NOW
If you’re looking for a tried-and-true BBQ option that’s fairly low in sugar (four grams), go for Stubb’s. Clearly a crowd favorite, this vinegary sauce is widely available (and affordable!).
Only con? “It does include some corn syrup in its ingredients list, although it is the second-to-last ingredient, so it is likely very minimal and doesn’t have great impact on its health profile,” Hertz says.
Per serving: 25 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 240 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 0 g protein
5 Primal Kitchen Classic BBQ Sauce
Primal Kitchen’s amazon.com $17.04 $14.99 (12% off) SHOP NOW
“For BBQ sauces, we want ingredients like tomato paste and/or crushed tomatoes, mustard, vinegar, spices, etc.,” explains Abby K. Cannon, RD, a nutritionist in New York City.
If any option fits Cannon’s bill, it’s this simple, unsweetened, vinegar-based product from Primal Kitchen. It lists water, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and ACV as the first four ingredients.
Per serving: 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 3 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 160 mg sodium, <1 g fiber, 0 g protein
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