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Lisa Fritz–Food Files

Lisa Fritz


Addition of a sugar could make difference

Dear Lisa: I have a question about homemade spaghetti sauce. My recipe uses onions, garlic, tomato paste and canned tomatoes, plus seasonings. It is not as smooth tasting as canned or jarred spaghetti sauce, and I was wondering what could be the difference. Any ideas? Thanks, Heather

Dear Heather: If you study the labels on most commercial spaghetti sauce brands, you will notice that corn syrup and/or high fructose corn syrup is a major ingredient. The addition of this sweetener is certainly responsible for one of the differences in the taste of homemade vs. commercial recipes.

Some recipes include a teaspoon or two of sugar to help balance the acidic flavor of the tomatoes. The addition of sugar, however, does not neutralize or reduce the acid. If you want to neutralize the acid, you must add a base such as baking soda. A very small pinch will do the trick.

Dear Lisa: My sister and I are wondering if fresh vegetables are always more nutritious than canned or frozen. Is one form better than the other as far as nutrients are concerned? Thanks, Tina and Sara

Dear Tina and Sara: It depends. If you are able to get vegetables fresh from the farm (like from our downtown farmer’s market) the answer is absolutely yes. The nutrient values have not deteriorated much in freshly harvested vegetables.

But buying fresh produce from the grocery store is a different matter. After harvest, produce goes to a warehouse, then must be shipped to the retailer where it waits in the store for the consumer to purchase it. Then it might languish in the refrigerator for days before you decide to use it.

In this case, fresh frozen produce is almost always more nutritious because food processors must select the highest quality for preservation and most often freeze it within hours of harvesting. There is a marked difference between the textures of canned and frozen vegetables, however, and that is a matter of personal preference.

• Lisa Fritz is a food and nutrition educator at Bryan High School. She answers readers’ questions about food, cooking and recipes. Her e-mail address is


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