There is no getting away from it: kids love tomato sauce.
I never thought that I would be the parent who would turn to tomato sauce to get her child excited about a meal. I honestly thought I could keep my son away from the stuff until school-going age (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift).
The reality, however, is that when my son stumbled upon some earlier this year, I witnessed a love affair that I knew – there and then – I would not easily intercept. Ever since that day, he will spot the shiny red bottle in any eating environment, with the precision of an eagle, demanding that he dips (or “dit” in his case) whatever he may be eating.
Tomato sauce actually provides a number of health benefits to growing little people, including its high lycopene content. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body’s cells from free radical damage, fighting off disease and cancer. Each serving also packs in a powerful punch of vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, hair and immune functioning.
The problem with store bought tomato sauce is the sugar content (high glucose corn syrup and cane sugar): each tablespoon serving includes anywhere from 4 grams of sugar, which equates to roughly 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. According to The American Heart Association, children should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily to avoid a weakened immune system, flu symptoms and tooth decay (amongst a host of other nasties). If your child is laying on the tomato sauce with most meals, over and above consuming sugar in other food and drinks, they are most probably exceeding this recommended daily limit.
Light tomato sauce options, whilst lower in sugar or sugar-free, are packed with artificial sweeteners: OK in moderation but not regarded as nutritionally substantial enough for the growing needs of children.
With this in mind, and knowing that certain sugars are unavoidable in certain foods, I wanted to make my own sugar-free sauce that packs in the flavour, but without the unnecessary sugar. In this recipe I have used unsweetened apple sauce to add in a natural sweetness, but you could also use unsweetened pear, date or prune purèe.
What you’ll need:
- 1 tin crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup Passata sauce
- 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce/purèe
- 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
- Juice of 1 small lemon (1/2 large lemon)
- 1 Tbs All Spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cracks black pepper
- Bring all of the ingredients to the boil
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes (until the mixture has reduced by half)
- Remove from the heat
- Remove the bay leaves
- Purèe until smooth
- Store in an airtight, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month