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Re-Thinking Ketchup – and Ketchup Alternatives

Is ketchup an ever-present condiment on your table? With all of the sugar (and often even high fructose corn syrup) involved, it’s time to start thinking about ketchup alternatives.

Ketchup is Evolving

True, ketchup is evolving. It’s come a long way since people tried to call it a vegetable. Some brands started by creating lower-sodium versions. Then some companies began removing high fructose corn syrup from the recipe. Now there are organic versions on the market. So does that make ketchup a health food now?

Well, not exactly.  If your kids could take it or leave it, there’s probably no harm in the occasional ketchup garnish, especially as a treat at a restaurant or a birthday party. And if ketchup is improving its nutritional profile, even on the margins, that’s a good thing.


But if your little eaters are the kind who like to drown their food in the gooey red stuff day after day, a little tweak in the recipe here and there won’t make much of a difference. They’re still getting a big wallop of sugar with every cup they consume.

Alternative Ketchup Ideas

So when you find yourself going through institutional-sized bottles on a regular basis, it’s time to re-think your ketchup strategy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Idea #1: Make your own homemade ketchup. Really. Don’t roll your eyes. Sure, it’ll take a little investment of time (about the same amount of time as it would if you were making tomato sauce). But you can use home-grown tomatoes if you have them, and you can adjust sugar and seasonings to your own taste. (Extra bonus tip: We’ve seen some homemade ketchup recipes that let you sneak other vegetables like carrots inside.)


Idea #2: Try alternative fruit-based ketchups. Many have no sugar added.

Idea #3: Let them eat salsa. This will help you dial down on the sugar content, and if you’re willing to make your own, you can create any number of variations on the theme depending on their taste and yours (pineapple salsa, anyone?).

Idea #4: Try a variation on the theme. It doesn’t have to be tomato-ey as long as it’s red, right? Make a nice red pepper coulis that your kids can use for dipping breads, vegetables, or even fries.

Idea #5: Go radical. Who cares if it’s red? Let them try dipping little bites of food in yogurt, mustard, olive oil, hummus, or homemade salad dressings instead (like this homemade ranch dressing made with kefir).

homemade ranch dressing

Of course there are times when nothing but good old-fashioned ketchup will do. And no matter how many times the commercial recipes are tweaked, ketchup is still likely to be a staple of the pre-teen and teen diet. Just don’t tell yourself that because it has lycopene, it’s a health food. And keep your mind open to the many tasty alternatives.

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