Inconvenient truth about convenience food, real truth about jars of sauce, whats in your pasta sauce, should processed food carry a warning label

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods


I will hold my hands up and say I used to be a can’t cook, won’t cook and don’t even ask me to cook type of person.  I survived on a very random diet of cream crackers and cereals –not the best type of food to fuel your body with.  This worked for me until I met my husband, who showed me what a ‘normal’ person’s diet was.  Luckily for him, he never expected me to be the one providing a cooked meal, we both worked full time and survived on anything that could be warmed up in an oven in less than twenty minutes – I’m not at all sure that this beat my crackers and cereals on a nutritional level, but at least I had progressed to eating hot food every day !

This carried on until I had my first son, I was completely clueless when it came to feeding him, until he could eat real food he lived off pre prepared gloop from a jar and yes he did turn out to be a very fussy eater, although luckily he did love fruit, It’s o.k though he has developed into a normal healthy child and I don’t appear to have caused him any lasting damage!

My husband is a great cook, he will happily take over the kitchen and make a delicious meal from very few ingredients, however he works a lot of hours and I work from home, so unfortunately for my family the main provider of our meals is me!!


When I had my second son I knew our eating habits as a family would have to change, I was far too dependent on chicken nuggets and microchips.  I bought myself a small food processor (you can now buy ones specifically for baby food - find out more info over at  I also found an excellent baby cook book by Annabel Karmel this was based on using fresh ingredients and freezing them in ice cube trays – it was a nuisance and not what a sleep deprived mother wants to be doing – however the satisfaction of seeing my child eat ‘real’ food outweighed the pain, to this day my youngest child will literally eat anything.  With this success I tried to provide more home cooked meals – or at least what I classed as home cooked meals.  These consisted of jars or packets to make bolognese, lasagne and occasionally a chicken curry, I thought this was real cooking, well at least they were made with fresh meat and the odd carrot chucked in.


I really wanted my children to have a healthy relationship with food and realised in order to do this, I would need to provide meals that were not reliant on jars and packets, I didn’t have a clue where to start, so I went to the best cook I know, my friend Helen, we have persuaded her to share some of her family favourites with us - you can find them on the main blog page.  Most of her skills were self-taught but now and again she would try out a cooking course, I went along with her and we carried on for five years.  The course was cantered around basic home cooked food, it helped to make me more confident in the kitchen and gave me a bank of recipes which are easy and quick to prepare.

I can’t say I cook from scratch all of the time, It’s just not practical and sometimes I really just can’t be bothered or honestly don’t have the time.  I think I provide home cooked food 80 % of the time – no actually scrap that I’m lying I think it’s probably 70%. When I’m strapped for time I do still reach for a packet, but at least it’s not as frequently as before.  This is an on-going mission for me and I'm always trying to improve on the nutritional quality of the meals I make – it’s difficult as cooking is not a natural fit with me, plus I would prefer to spend my time doing literally anything else, however I will continue as I do realise that teaching my kids how to make good food choices will help keep them healthy and fit for life.

Katie however is not so happy about my use of sauces in a jar and sent me the following information to try and persuade me not to use them too frequently.


There has been lots of media hype over the last year surrounding the use of Dolmio and Uncle Bens Sauces as whether the  fat/salt/sugar levels are too high and should they carry a warning to say that they should only be consumed once a week.

We need to look a little closer to see exactly why this may be.  I have included a lot of figures but I think it is a clearer way of getting to the nitty-gritty bits!!!!

NHS guidelines for high levels are –

High fat content is 17.5g per 100g – no more than 30g for men and 20g for women per day.

High sugar content is 22.5g per 100g - no more than 30g per day.

High salt content is 1.5g per 100g – no more than 6g per day.

Now keep these in mind as we break down the contents of the Sauces -

Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce per 100g has          0.6g of fat,    5.8g sugar and 0.8g salt.

Dolmio Carbonara Sauce per 100g has                      10.6g of fat, 2.6g sugar and 0.8g salt

Homepride Creamy Tomato and Herb per 100g has    7.5g of fat,    5.5g sugar and 0.97g salt

Weight watchers Bolognese Sauce per 100g has        0.5g of fat,    3.7g sugar and 0.6g salt

Lloyd Grossmans Bolognese Sauce per 100g has       2.5g of fat,    5.2g sugar and 0.82g salt

So although they don't fall into the NHS 'high' category per 100g, bare in mind that the average jar is 500g and although you could divide this by 4 people I'm pretty sure there are an awful lot of people that might use a whole jar for two.  If you are heavily reliant on them you could easily be exceeding your daily allowance of fat/sugar and salt when combined with everything else you are eating.  My advice - they are o.k now and again, just not for every meal and make sure you, as I do with all my dishes, chuck in a few fresh ingredients to add some nutritional value.


However there are certain other foods that you should be aware of and maybe really should come with a warning

Tesco Italian Beef Lasagne per 100g has

7.5g of fat, 2.0g sugar and 0.5g salt - however it has 33.4g of fat in the total meal which is already over the recommended daily total for a man.

Tesco Italian Carbonara per 100g has

8.4g of fat, 1.4g sugar and 0.6g salt - however it has 35.3g of fat in the total meal

Tesco Ham and cheese Pizza 100g has

6.9g of fat, 4.3g sugar and 1.1g salt - however it has 20g of fat in the whole pizza 12.4g of sugar and 3g of salt.

Tesco Chicken Tikka Masala and Rice has

6.8g of fat,    2.7g sugar and 0.5g salt - however in the whole meal 30.4g of fat, 12.2g of sugar and 2.4g of salt.

As a busy Mum trying to do the best for your family looking at these labels the per 100g doesn’t look that bad, however when you start to break it down and analyse the total amount contained overall in the meal - it is quite shocking.  A clever bit of labelling can hide a multitude of things.

Maybe meals like these need to have labels on to say only consume once a month or ever!!!!



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