Nutrition Labels: Tomato versus Tomato

Recently, I was grocery shopping at a store I don’t normally shop at, and I needed diced tomatoes for my vegetarian chili recipe. Often I will just buy fresh tomatoes, dice them myself, but that isn’t always practical, so when that is the case, I like to buy the tomatoes in a box, not in a can. In fact, I try to avoid anything in a can.   If I can’t buy it fresh, I’ll resort to frozen, but only canned if I am seriously desperate. This is usually a great policy for most foods, except tomatoes. They are not available frozen; so it’s fresh or in the canned food aisle. And nowadays there are a plethora of food processors that have taking the hint and moved away from canning and now used lined boxes and pouches instead. YAY PROGRESS!!

In past posts I have talked about nutrition labels and why its so important to read the ingredient list AND the nutritional information, but I’d like to show you an great example of why it matters. Here are two different packages of tomatoes: one is 28 ounces of canned diced tomatoes and the other is a 26 ounce box of chopped tomatoes

Here are the nutrition labels:

There are a few things in common: both indicate that a 1/2 cup is a serving size, neither have any fat or cholesterol. And then the differences: there is 7 servings in the can, and only 6 in the box; Can has 25 calories and the box is 28. There are more carbohydrates in the box, 1 additional gram of both fiber and sugar. The fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar, so it’s nutritionally a wash. The can has 180 mg of sodium, the box has 5 mg. That is 175mg of sodium per serving extra.

Now, lets take a look at the ingredients. It’s diced tomatoes, how many ingredients could be in it?

The canned has 5 ingredients, the box has one. The one you would expect.

The box of tomatoes does cost more. And it’s not available in all grocery stores, as I sadly discovered. Maybe you’re thinking, “175 extra milligrams of salt isn’t going to kill me”, and you’re probably correct. However, if you add up all the little amounts of added sodium, or added sugar, or added anything, over the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime…. it could create some health issues down the road.

Read your labels, check the ingredients. Here’s the deal, once you figure out which products work for you, you don’t have to read every label, because you’ll already know. And if the store where you usually shop at doesn’t carry products packaged in pouches and boxes, it’s up to you, the consumer, to ask them to. Let the store manager know that you’d prefer beans and tomatoes in lined boxes or pouches.

Reds Rule: Buy fresh when you can, frozen is the next best, boxes or pouches in a pinch and cans when there is no other option.

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