How ketchup makers are trying to make you feel good about shaking and squeezing gobs of this tomato-based sauce on your foods.

August 13, 2010

Ketchup or catsup. Regardless of how you refer to America’s favorite condiment, ketchup makers are trying to make you feel good about shaking and squeezing gobs of this tomato-based sauce onto your foods.

As a dietitian, this stumps me, especially when I think of all the areas in which we can improve our diets, like giving up a penchant for, say, fries, cookies, ice cream, or candy. But ketchup? Not so much.

I admit I am not an expert on how Americans feel about their condiments, and I don’t smother my food in ketchup. I just like a good dollop of the tomato-vinegar-sugar-and-spice condiment on a few foods, like eggs and burgers.

Makers of America’s favorite condiment—Heinz and Hunt’s—are reformulating their secret sauces to make them better for us. Heinz recently launched Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup, which is made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and ConAgra Foods has replaced HFCS with sugar in its Hunt's ketchup.

Several organic varieties don't have any HFCS too. And I even found a newfangled organic option, Krazy Ketchup, that’s made from tomatoes and veggies, such as squash and carrots.

While the jury is still out on whether or not HFCS is much different metabolically than table sugar, many consumers think that HFCS has the ability to pile on pounds more readily than sugar. Regardless of the sugar source, let’s put ketchup’s sugar into perspective.


Americans down some 22 teaspoons of added sweeteners daily, with the major sources being soda, beverages, desserts, breads, crackers, candy, and cereals. Ketchup, with half to 1 teaspoon of sugar per serving (a 12-ounce soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar), isn’t going to significantly impact your sugar intake.

When it comes to sodium, too, most of us get more than we should—sometimes two to three times the recommended 2,300 milligrams. However, the majority of sodium comes from processed foods like soup, deli meats, dairy products, processed breads and grains, and frozen meals.

Condiments, including soy sauce, ketchup, and mustard, contribute to a smaller percentage of the total daily sodium intake. Heinz has also vowed to have 15% less sodium in its ketchup by this summer. While the sodium reduction in your ketchup is a start, the real sodium changes need to be from the foods that contribute the most sodium in the diet.

Here’s a look at the new better-for-you ketchups

Muir Glen Organic Ketchup




Sweetened with sugar