12 Unhealthiest Store-Bought Coleslaws

Summer, the season for backyard barbecues, family reunions, and picnics in the park, has finally arrived. This means that we will be consuming a lot of iconic simple foods like burgers, hot dogs, and a wide variety of mayonnaise-based salads. We're talking potato salads, macaroni salads, and, of course, coleslaw.

While there is no single recipe for coleslaw, most recipes have some common ingredients such as shredded cabbage, carrots, mayonnaise, and vinegar. Sounds pretty healthy, right? And it can depend on what else is added. Many coleslaws include sugar and salt. Either ingredient can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. When making coleslaw yourself, that is easy to monitor.

But what about those days you just don't have the time or the energy to make something from scratch? What's the big deal about grabbing a premade tub of slaw from the grocery store? Nothing at all! However, those more health-conscious individuals or people with specific nutritional needs may want to rethink which brand of coleslaw they buy. Read on to learn which brands of store-bought coleslaw may be the best fit for your diet.

1. Kroger Creamy Cole Slaw

An innovator from the beginning, Kroger is now one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States, coming in second only to Walmart. Its deli department is full of fresh sides, salads, and platters that make it extremely easy to grab what you need and get on with the party.

Kroger sells different commercial brands but also carries its own brand of coleslaw. While buying store brand items can save you money, and they are generally just as nutritious as the name brands, they aren't necessarily made of the exact same ingredients, and sometimes include undesirable additives.

One ½ cup serving of Kroger Creamy Cole Slaw, for example, contains 590 milligrams of sodium. That's over a quarter of the daily recommended sodium intake. It also contains 14 grams of sugar, 11 of which are added sugar. The added sugar alone equals nearly a quarter of the recommended daily intake. The 2 grams of saturated fat make up 10% of the daily recommended amount. There is also wheat germ, making this coleslaw a big no for those with gluten intolerance.

2. Safeway Signature Select Classic Cole Slaw Salad

As a subsidiary of Albertsons, Safeway is also part of one of the largest grocery store chains in the U.S. As we said before, there is nothing inherently wrong with a store brand food. It's what is included in the ingredients that matters, regardless of the brand.

In the case of Safeway Signature Select Classic Cole Slaw Salad, there is a hefty amount of sugar. Thirteen grams of added sugar equate to one quarter of the recommended daily intake. In fact, sugar comes in as the second ingredient after cabbage and before mayonnaise. That seems like an awful lot for just a ½ cup serving of coleslaw.

On the plus side, the sodium level is considerably lower than some other brands, coming in at 210 milligrams, or 9% of the daily recommended amount. There is also only 1.5 grams of saturated fat. The Safeway brand of coleslaw does not contain wheat products, making it a safer option for those with wheat and gluten intolerance.

3. Freshness Guaranteed Homestyle

Another store brand coleslaw that is concerningly high in added sugar is Freshness Guaranteed Homestyle Cole Slaw, available at Walmart. Though it is not quite as high as the Kroger and Safeway brands, Freshness Guaranteed still contains 20% of the daily recommended amount of added sugar, or 10 grams. The sodium content is also pretty high at 15%, or 340 milligrams, per ½ cup serving.

If calories are a concern, Freshness Guaranteed isn't doing well in that department either with 170 calories per ½ cup, which is 10 less than Kroger's Creamy Cole Slaw, but 30 more than Safeway's Signature Select Classic Cole Slaw Salad. There are also 2 grams of saturated fat. For those with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, however, there is some good news. Neither wheat germ nor any other wheat product appears in the ingredients list. Freshness Guaranteed Homestyle Cole Slaw does come with the notice that bioengineered food ingredients were used to make this coleslaw, which may be something to consider for some customers.

4. Market Pantry Homestyle Coleslaw

Target's Market Pantry Homestyle Coleslaw continues the high added sugar trend. In fact, it has the highest amount so far with 14 added grams, 16 grams total, per ½ cup serving. That's 28% of the daily recommended amount. And once again sugar comes between cabbage and mayonnaise on the list of ingredients. With this much sweetness in the coleslaw, who needs dessert?

Compared to the sugar, the 230 milligrams of sodium might not seem so bad, but that is still 10% of the daily recommended amount, which seems like a lot for just ½ a cup of food. There is also 1.5 grams of saturated fat, which is slightly lower than some of the others on this list, but still something to consider if you are keeping an eye on your saturated fat intake. Once again, there are no wheat or gluten ingredients listed, but there is a bioengineered food warning. While the FDA has found that GMOs perfectly safe to eat, we know it is a concern for some consumers.

5. Hill Country Fare Classic Coleslaw

Hill Country Fare is H-E-B's value brand, and its Classic Coleslaw is surprisingly low in sodium when compared to other brands on this list. There are only 95 milligrams of sodium, or 4% of the daily recommended amount, per ½ cup serving. Unfortunately, this is made up for in added sugar.

Each serving of Hill Country Fare Classic Coleslaw contains an impressive 16 grams of added sugar, 18 grams total sugar, or 32% of the daily recommended amount. Unsurprisingly, sugar is once again the second ingredient listed on the label, coming between cabbage and mayonnaise. According to Harvard Health, consuming large amounts of added sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, increased inflammation, fatty liver disease, and heart disease. Those who already deal with any one of these conditions will probably want to seriously consider whether or not a ½ cup of Hill Country Fare Classic Coleslaw is worth it.

6. Ruth's Cole Slaw

Based in North Carolina, Ruth's Salads has been creating deli style salads and spreads since the 1950s. Its products can be found in grocery stores across the U.S., including Food Lion and Walmart. Compared to the store brands above, Ruth's Cole Slaw is relatively low on sugar, containing only 10 grams total. With 1.5 grams of saturated fat, it is pretty on par with most other brands we looked at. So, what's to worry about? The sodium.

One ½ cup serving of Ruth's Cole Slaw contains 420 milligrams of sodium, or 18% of the daily recommended amount. Consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, and also increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Given that Hill Country Fare Classic Coleslaw contains only 95 milligrams of sodium, it seems safe to say that high sodium is not a requirement of a good coleslaw.

7. Star's Deli Cole Slaw

Star's Deli Cole Slaw is another independent brand that can be found in various grocery stores, including Walmart and Food Lion. Unlike the coleslaws we have looked at so far, a single serving of Star's is ⅓ of a cup rather than ½ a cup. Each serving contains 230 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat, which is about 18% of the daily recommendation. Like Ruth's, Star's is also pretty low in sugar with only 3 added grams and 9 grams of sugar total. However, also like Ruth's, the sodium is a bit high at 480 milligrams, or 21% of the daily recommended amount.

The ingredients list does not contain wheat products, but it does include high fructose corn syrup and food dye yellow no. 5, also known as tartrazine. According to WebMD, the safety of consuming tartrazine has been in question for about a century. But the only thing that can be said for certain is that it is a potential allergen and is included under warnings on the label.

8. Wegmans Coleslaw

We return to store brands with Wegmans Coleslaw. Each ½ cup serving contains 3 grams of saturated fat, 500 milligrams of sodium, and 7 grams of added sugar. We've already mentioned that consuming too much sodium can result in high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, a diet high in saturated fat also has its concerns. Saturated fats are also called solid fats because they become solid at room temperature. They are found in tropical oils, such as palm and coconut, as well as animal-based products. 

In the case of coleslaw, saturated fat likely comes from the egg yolks used to make the mayonnaise. Consumption of a lot of saturated fat can lead to increased levels of LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming lots of sodium alongside saturated fat should be considered carefully when it comes to heart health. On the positive side, sugar comes in fourth on a list of fairly simple ingredients.

9. Hy-Vee Creamy Coleslaw

Hy-Vee Creamy Coleslaw is another store brand deli style coleslaw. One serving is listed as 3.9 ounces, which comes to just shy of a ½ a cup. This creamy coleslaw is one of the highest on the list in terms of calories with 200 per serving. It also is among the most sugary with 13 grams of added sugar, 16 grams total. That is over 25% of the recommended daily amount. Sodium is less of a concern here than with other brands at 210 milligrams, or only 9% of the recommended daily intake.

As for ingredients, Hy-Vee Creamy Coleslaw contains both natural and artificial flavors. And for as many vegetables are listed, such as green cabbage, carrots, and dehydrated onion, there is a surprising lack of vitamins and minerals. Wegmans Coleslaw has 149 milligrams of potassium, 0.6 milligrams of iron, and 97 milligrams of calcium. Hy-Vee's has only 46 milligrams of potassium, 0 milligrams of iron, and 34 milligrams of calcium.

10. Garden-Fresh Foods Creamy Coleslaw

Garden-Fresh Foods, Inc. is a Wisconsin-based food company that specializes in convenience items such as dips, desserts, side dishes, and salads. Its products can be found in multiple settings, including retail, wholesale, and food service. Two of the major grocery chains that carry Garden-Fresh Foods are the Piggly Wiggly and Safeway.

Each ⅓ cup serving size of Garden-Fresh Foods Creamy Coleslaw contains 180 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, 410 milligrams of sodium, or 18% of the daily recommended amount, and 16 grams of added sugar, or 32% of the daily recommended amount.

The high sugar content isn't much of a surprise when you realize that both high fructose corn syrup and sugar appear more than once on the ingredients label. Anyone who is steering clear of either of these ingredients for health, dietary, or other personal reasons may want to consider a different brand of coleslaw for their party.

11. Reser's Cole Slaw

Started in the 1950s, Reser's Fine Foods is among the largest family-owned and operated prepared foods businesses in the U.S. The company is based in Oregon, but its products are sold in grocery stores across the country. This includes Kroger, Safeway, and Albertsons.

One serving size of Reser's Cole Slaw is 110 grams, or about ½ a cup. Each serving is pretty average with 160 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 230 milligrams of sodium. It also contains 14 grams of added sugar, 16 grams of sugar total. Yet again, sugar falls between cabbage and mayonnaise on the ingredients list.

Kroger's nutrition rating system OptUP gives Reser's Cole Slaw a 45 out of 100. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food. Slightly lower than center means that this coleslaw could be worse, but it could also be a lot better. We're betting that 28% of your daily recommended consumption of sugar is a big contributor to the low score.

12. H‑E‑B Coleslaw Kit Classic and Dill Pickle Flavored

We decided to include both the H‑E‑B Coleslaw Kit Classic and H‑E‑B Coleslaw Kit Dill Pickle Flavored into one because they are so similar. They are also the only salad kits included in this list and have a larger, perhaps more realistic, serving size of one cup.

Because they are bags of shredded green and red cabbage and carrots with a separate package of dressing that you mix together, there are fewer preservatives listed in the ingredients than the deli style coleslaws listed above. It's the ingredients in the dressing that you will want to pay attention to.

The Classic kit uses creamy coleslaw dressing and is probably where those 7 grams of added sugar come from. The sodium is a fairly modest 120 milligrams. The Dill kit has crispy pickle-flavored chips and dill pickle ranch dressing. The sodium is higher than the Classic at 190 milligrams, but the sugar is much lower with only 1 gram of added sugar, 4 grams total. How you feel about sodium, sugar, and dill pickles may determine which of these kits is a healthier choice for you.

How we chose our coleslaws

At first glance, coleslaw seems like a simple dish. Shred up some cabbage, carrots, maybe some onions for extra flavor, and toss it all in a mayonnaise-based dressing. But we think this list has shown that there is a lot of variety in recipes. H-E-B has a dill pickle coleslaw while Garden-Fresh Foods mixes relish and bell peppers into its coleslaw.

The amounts of added sugar also vary widely. Some have as little as one gram of added sugar while several contain a quarter or more of the daily recommended amount in just a ½ cup. Most use just sugar while others include high fructose corn syrup. We understand if diabetics want to steer clear of coleslaw altogether. Sodium content is another factor that varies considerably, from 95 milligrams to 590. High sodium combined with heavy amounts of added sugar is not a good combination for improved heart health. After carefully reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists, we came up with our list of coleslaws that consumers may want to think twice about if they have these concerns.