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Ketchup was my absolute very favorite condiment growing up. Tomatoes are one of nature’s sweetest foods, but the intoxicating addition of high-fructose corn syrup, salt, and a list of preservatives, is what essentially kept me coming back for more. I’m not shy about having a sugar addiction as a child and teen. I’d cover anything with something sweet, including sweet foods! Or, if I was forced to eat veggies, I’d just douse them in ketchup and call it a day. I know, insanity, right?!

Now, I’m in love with the taste of fresh vegetables and don’t miss the ill effects that sugar had on my health. It’s also incredible to realize the sweet taste of foods like tomatoes have all own their own. Carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet raw corn, and even seeds and nuts like almonds and pumpkin seeds all have a naturally sweet flavor when your taste buds grow accustomed to appreciating the flavor of real foods.

ketchup-baked-home-fries (1)

What’s Wrong With Commercialized Ketchup?

The food industry adds sugar to condiments to make them addicting, so you go through those bottles in just weeks versus months like you would if you went by the serving size. Ketchup is one of those foods. Made of tomato concentrates, a source of sugar (high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, agave nectar, coconut nectar/syrup, brown rice syrup, cane juice, or cane crystals, just to name a handful), vinegar, spices (mostly likely code for MSG), water and refined salt. All of this makes for one addicting condiment, to put it mildly.

And yet, a product’s marketing tactics don’t tell you that. What reads as a natural food, is actually something completely different where the ingredients are concerned.

tomato concentrate

Source: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

Ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar in just one teaspoon folks, and I’m betting you don’t measure out those servings anymore than I used to (unless dousing counts as a serving size!). To give you a comparison, you could eat a whole 1/2 cup of raspberries for the same amount, and none of its sugar is fake or processed. That same 1/2 cup of raspberries also has 8 grams of fiber, not to mention vitamins and minerals that actually enhance your health, not hurt it. And while you may not want to spread raspberries on your fries, it’s still something to keep in mind about added sugars and how much we use. A 1/2 cup of tomatoes is also 4 grams of natural sugars (not added), so you can see how very few tomatoes must be in an actual teaspoon of ketchup if it has just as much sugar as a 1/2 cup of the real fruit ketchup is made from.

What’s Really Wrong with Added Sugars?

Added sugars, whether they come from the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, or from “healthier” options like cane sugar, coconut sugar, agave, or others, still contain added, processed fructose, which has been linked to liver problems and more. These are different than whole food sources of sugar like fruit, or even zero calorie, natural sweeteners like organic stevia liquid extract.

Even organic ketchup options on the market contain added sugars from one of these sources. Your body doesn’t care if its organic sugar or if it’s “less refined”. The liver still has to deal with it, and so does your blood sugar. Added sugars contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and they detour your taste buds from what real foods do taste like. They also promote inflammation, are addicting, and let’s be honest – their serving sizes are hard to stick by.

But many sugar-free options also contain artificial chemical sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame.  So what are you supposed to do when you want some ketchup or a healthy condiment?

The Answer to Your Ketchup Solution:

While you could pay for pricey ketchup and condiments that come without added sugars, why not save your money, spend five minutes in the kitchen and just make your own?

homemade ketchup

Source: jeffreyw/Flickr

Making healthy ketchup free from added sugars is easy.  You can either use whole foods to sweeten your ketchup as mentioned below, or go with natural, chemical-free liquid pure stevia instead. Stevia liquid is just dried stevia herb that is diluted in water. It contains no chemicals, preservatives, MSG, or sugar. Be careful to choose a good source, which you can learn more about here. You can also choose white stevia extract, though it’s more processed than liquid. Always go GMO-free and organic when possible.

Healthy, Homemade Ketchup- No Added Sugar!

sugar-free ketchup

Makes: 1 cup (keeps about 1 week in the fridge)


  • 1 (15 oz.) BPA-free can of organic, fire-roasted, no salt added diced tomatoes OR go with jarred, (plain) diced tomatoes without added ingredients (Jovial, Eden Foods and Bionature are all organic brands to try).  Or, you can use your own tomatoes and fire-roast in the oven before pureeing *The oven roasts adds the best flavor, though regular diced tomatoes will work*
  • 1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar (great ingredient for your health and kitchen!)
  • 1/8 tsp. pink sea salt (raw, unprocessed, mineral-rich salt)
  • Sweetening Option of Choice: 1 soaked dried date or dried fig OR 2-3 drops liquid plain stevia
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • optional: dash of black pepper or even garlic powder


  1. First, drain your tomatoes. Since they are high in water, you don’t want soupy ketchup; draining will help keep your ketchup thick once it’s blended. (Don’t use tomato sauce since it will make your ketchup too thin.)
  2. Add all the ingredients to a small food processor or a blender made for small jobs (like the Nutribullet or Magic Bullet), or add it to your high speed blender and blend until completely smooth.
  3. Store in a glass mason jar for one week in the fridge. Try to choose a half-pint size jar since the less empty space at the top of the jar, the longer it will keep. Please, do not use plastic containers since they’ll not just stain, but your kethcup can also soak up chemicals from the plastic during storage.


Enjoy your ketchup on home fries, sweet potato fries, burgers, roasted veggies (trust me here!), or even vegan omelettes (another surprisingly yummy combo!). Or, for a quick, homemade barbecue sauce, pair your ketchup with equal parts mustard (one of the healthiest condiments still on the market today) and you’ll be good to go!

What’s your favorite food to put ketchup on?

 Lead Image Source: Heather McClees

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