Friday, April 1, 2011

Things get dicey when it comes to tomatoes...

Recently I purchased a case of Hunt's All Natural Diced Tomatoes. I looked at the ingredients first, of course. Tomatoes, tomato juice, less than 2% of salt, citric acid and calcium chloride. I could live without the last two, but they're kind of standard in canned tomatoes, not a problem and probably necessary to keep things right with color and flavor.

Anyway, I had been buying the Kroger store brand as it was usually cheaper. I got the case of Hunts at a great price on sale at Sams.

I opened a can, used it in a dish and could immediately taste the difference. The Hunts was sweeter. Not eating sugar, I have rather sensitive taste buds anymore.

I happened to have a can of the Kroger brand on the shelf so I compared ingredients. The same although they reversed the order of citric acid and calcium chloride.

I then compared the nutrition facts. Whoa, the Hunts brand had six (6) carbs per 1/2 c serving while the Kroger brand had only four (4) for the same size serving. Both had 3g of sugar.

I zapped off an email to ConAgra, maker / owner or whatever of Hunts. I simply asked if they included sugar in the tomato juice. It's been almost three weeks and aside from the canned response, I haven't had a response. Given the sugars are the same I doubt there is added sugar. Plus, I believe they would have to list it as an ingredient in the tomato juice in parenthesis. Maybe they just grind up more tomatoes in the juice?  It is a richer juice.

I then went on a search to compare brands. Here's what I found:

Del Monte - 25 calories, 250mg sodium, 6 carbs, 2 fibers, 4 sugars
Muir Glen - 30 calories, 290mg sodium, 6 carbs, 1 fiber, 4 sugars
Hunts - 25 calories, 250mg sodium, 6 carbs, 2 fibers, 4 sugars (although can says 3)
Great Value (Walmart brand) - 25 calories, 220mg sodium, 4 carbs, 1 fiber, 3 sugars
Progresso - 25 calories, 250mg sodium, 5 carbs, 1 fiber, 3 sugars
Kroger - 25 calories, 220mg sodium, 4 carbs, 1 fiber, 3 sugars

My conclusion? Stay away from Muir Glen as it ranked highest in everything bad. Chances are it probably tastes the best!

And the bottom line? This is one area where buying the store brand is definitely healthier. The store brands I compared are much better for those counting carbs, too.

In case you're wondering, I couldn't find anything that said Hunts or any of the other brands included sugar in the tomato juice used in their canned tomatoes. However, beware of ANY of the ones that have other ingredients, the Italian Herb, etc. Most, if not all, of the ones with things other than straight tomatoes have sugar plainly listed in the ingredients.

If salt / sodium is an issue for you then you already know these are bad boys and that you have the option of salt-free canned tomatoes.