This is Why Kids Love Ketchup

This is Why Kids Love Ketchup

If you are like most parents, by the time your children reach grade school, ketchup has become the go-to condiment for almost every meal. In severe cases, ketchup becomes the centerpiece of the meal, and the meat, rice, or pasta is the condiment.

What is it about ketchup that has made it such a popular kid food?

To answer this question, we turned to veritably the most popular brand of ketchup in America – Heinz. A quick peek at the nutrition facts panel reveals the culprit: Sugars.

A serving is listed as one tablespoon. That tiny amount is a pipe dream of course. Each “serving” has 20 calories. Now, if you look at the sugars count – it’s 4 grams. Each gram of sugar is 4 calories. Four times four is 16 calories from sugars. Sixteen calories out of twenty is 80 percent. 80% of ketchup calories come from sugars! For comparison, Frosted Flakes cereal is just 40% sugar.

In the case of Heinz Ketchup, two sweeteners are used, both from GMO corn. Here is the ingredient list.

tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavoring.

To be fair, there is some sugar in the tomato concentrate itself, so let’s say 40% of the calories are from added sugars. That’s still a lot!

What’s a parent to do?

First, realize ketchup is like candy added to a dish.

Second, keep a closer watch on the amount your child adds to her dish. Better yet, don’t automatically make ketchup available on the dinner table.

Next, try to get your child to enjoy the sauces and gravies that you prepared. In some cases, you can add a touch of sugar to make them more appealing. This is especially true for tomato sauces, where a tiny amount of sugar helps remove the acidic bite and rounds off the flavor.

Lastly, try to get mustard into rotation. We’ll write about mustard tomorrow.

What’s your family’s ketchup situation?

  • Emily

    I was thoroughly addicted to ketchup until I started making my own. By cutting back on the sugars and making the tomatoes and spices the centerpiece, I’ve started using ketchup sparingly as a delicious condiment rather than a significant proportion of my meal.

    • Anne Noise

      Totally agreed. We already grow our own tomatoes, and making the ketchup isn’t tough at all. It’s totally worth it, especially when we make sriracha tangy ketchup. :D

  • Rhonda @wine-y-wife

    I agree with making your own ketchup. It’s delicious and you can customize it to match your tastes (or your kids) and after you get used to it, you can cut back on the amount of sugars you use, too. Here’s my recipe for ketchup.

  • CFO

    We use Simply Heintz, only 4g of sugar and its typically the same exact price as regular Heintz.

    • Fooducate

      4g of sugar is the same as the regular ketchup. It’s still 80% sugars…

      • DJ Waldow

        What about the ones that have no HFCS. Better? Or … ?

  • Lighten up

    I guess if you DRINK it… it may be an issue but I’m not so uptight as to worry about a squeeze a ketchup on a burger.

    • Bev Johnson

      40# child eats 2 teaspoons 2 x day- that is similar to 20 tsps for 200 # adult. They crave it and dip every thing in it.

  • George

    It seems pretty alarmist saying that “80% of ketchup calories come from sugars!” Compared to what many kids do eat today it’s not thaat bad. The French fries they’re dipping their ketchup into or the hotdogs they’re squirting it onto are much worse than the condiment itself.

  • John Fox

    Tell them to use Simply Heinz…no corn syrup or use Heinz organic ketchup.

    • DJ Waldow

      I was thinking the same thing. We made this switch recently.

  • Jason Harrison

    What about the sodium? I have to agree with the opinion that the burger, hot dog, or fried potatoes are more dangerous than the sugar.

  • Zena

    4 grams of sugar / 17 grams (total serving) = 23.5% comes from sugar

    Nevertheless, I agree with you that anything that contains high fructose corn syrup should not be on the menu, especially in such large quantities.

    Also, if you make your own tomato sauce, you can a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg instead of sugar to the sauce. It adds the warmth and gets rid of the acidity. Also, tomato sauce should only cook for 10 to 15 min (if it doesn’t have any meat in it). Cooking it longer makes it more acidic.

    • Fooducate

      Most of those 17 grams = water. That’s why we looked at the calories, not the grams.