Tonight, Matt and I had hot dogs for dinner, something occurred to me as I was putting ketchup and relish on my hot dog and pondering whether or not I wanted a salad. Remember the big hoopla about school cafeterias counting ketchup as a vegetable? The shock! The horror! But wait…if ketchup isn’t a vegetable, then how come tomato juice is? (Matt’s theory: V8 has a better PR department than Heinz.) Part of it is the serving size, and the amount of actual vitamins in a standard serving, sure. But I have to think that there’s also the underlying assumption that if it’s something most kids will eat willingly, it can’t possibly be good for you.
A tablespoon of ketchup has a bit of vitamins A and C, and not much else except some salt and sugar. But, while a cup of tomato juice has a lot more of both, as well as a bit of calcium, some potassium, and a little fiber, it also contains a crap-ton and a half of salt. (20% of your recommended daily intake, to be exact.) So is that good, or bad? Well, if you have high blood pressure, it’s terrible. If you’re at risk of scurvy, it’s freaking awesome. And ketchup, being sugary, is also a fantastic source of calories. Again, not so good if you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, but potentially really useful for kids who need the energy to get through math class, especially if the school lunch is the main meal they’re getting that day.