Is It Healthy: Bottled BBQ Sauce

Are bottled barbecue sauces a smart choice or just plain bad for your health?
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Barbecue Chicken Marinade

Photo by: Daniel Padavona

Daniel Padavona

 Are you drenching your summertime favorites in this picnic staple? Find out whether bottled barbecue sauce is a good option for your cookout or a sure-fire way to sabotage your diet.

Yes?

Bottled sauces and marinades are often made up of a combination of vinegar, seasonings and sweeteners; barbecue sauce usually contains a tomato base mixed with various spices and sweeteners like sugar and molasses. Unlike many other condiments that are well-suited to accompany fried and other high-fat foods, barbecue sauce is often used for grilled meats and veggies.

No?

Just like other sweet and salty condiments, there’s a lot of added sugar and salt to reckon with in bottled barbecue sauce, jacking up the calorie and sodium count faster than you can say, "Pass me a chicken wing!"

Popular sauces average anywhere from 45 to 70 calories for a two-tablespoon serving. You’ll also find a hefty amount of sugar, about 12 to 17 grams per serving, plus 200 to 350 milligrams of sodium; that’s as high as 14 percent of your daily allotment. While added sugar is never a healthy option, some brands use even more highly processed ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup — and many brands also use caramel coloring and preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.

The Verdict

Bottled barbecue sauce is far from healthy, but that doesn’t mean you have to banish it from your picnic menu. Look for brands with the lowest amount of added sugars, and resist the temptation to overpour.

Brand Recommendations

Look for brands that are low in sugar, and search out ingredient lists that are free of highly processed ingredients. Examples that foot the bill include The Shed, Stubb's and Trader Joe's.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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