Summer is here, and dietitians have you covered on products to buy and the ones to avoid, such as the healthiest BBQ sauce (and unhealthiest) in stores right now. BBQ sauce is a staple of delicious summer meals and has been so for years. In fact, according to the Tennessee State Museum, the classic sauce has been around since at least 1698, when Père Labat, a missionary who seems to also have been a culinary connoisseur, took inspiration from the African tendency to season meat with juice from lemons and limes. In the time since, people have come up with their own scrumptiously savory, sweet, or smoky takes on BBQ sauce.
For instance, TODAY notes that in Lexington, North Carolina, residents tend to prefer BBQ sauce that is piping hot and offers a kick of vinegar. Delicious! On the other hand, in Texas, you’ll likely find sauces with ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice, along with garlic, chilis, and maybe some cayenne pepper. Yum!
However, before you run off to grab a bottle or two of just any ol’ kind of BBQ sauce from your local store, it’s important to be aware of the fact that some pre-made products contain things that aren’t so ideal. In fact, some options contain amounts of certain ingredients that make them more than just a little unhealthy. Of course, in order to stay away from the potentially problematic ingredients, you need to know what to look for in each sauce.
Nutritional factors to consider when looking for BBQ sauce
“When on the quest for the healthiest BBQ sauces in stores, there are a few nutritional factors you should consider,” says Natalie Gillett, MS, RD. You can also keep these same factors in mind when trying to avoid unhealthy BBQ sauces. In order to spot both the best and worst options, simply check the ingredients list and nutritional information while keeping an eye out for the following.
“First and foremost, be wary of excessive amounts of added sugars,” says Gillett. “Some barbeque sauces contain over 4 teaspoons of sugar in just a 2-tablespoon serving of sauce! That’s almost double the amount of sugar in a pack of fruit snacks.”
“You should aim for no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day (6 teaspoons),” she notes. “One serving of some of these sauces can get you up to 2/3 of your limit in just a couple of squeezes. Not to mention, many people tend to use quite a bit more than just 2 tablespoons, so those teaspoons of added sugar really add up. Look for sauces with lower sugar content, about 8 grams or less, to avoid a sugary overload.”
The Best BBQ Sauces on Store Shelves
“Many BBQ sauces contain added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems,” says Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD. Instead, she suggests that you “opt for sauces with lower sugar content or those sweetened with natural alternatives like stevia or honey.”
“Next, keep an eye out for high sodium levels,” Gillett says. “Some sauces contain up to 15% of your Daily Value (DV) of sodium. Again, larger portions will drive that value even higher.”
The Worst BBQ Sauces on Store Shelves
She explains that “too much sodium in our diet may result in bloating and elevated blood pressure, so opt for sauces with lower sodium content to keep your health in check.” Beyond that, “portion control is your best bet for keeping both sugar and sodium under control.”
Gillett also says you need to “watch out for artificial additives that can sneak their way into some sauces.” She adds, “High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a sweetener commonly found in processed foods, can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases when consumed in excess. Also, try to avoid ingredients like ‘Red 40’ or caramel coloring, which are meant to add visual appeal but may have adverse effects on health for some individuals.”
Sabat recommends, “choos[ing] sauces with minimal additives or those made with natural ingredients.”
Finally, Sabat tells us that “If you’re watching your calorie or carbohydrate intake, check the nutritional information for these values.” She suggests opting for amounts that “fit within your dietary requirements.”
With these points in mind, check out the following list of the unhealthiest and healthiest BBQ sauces on store shelves.
True Made Foods No Sugar Memphis BBQ Sauce