Few foods are more satisfying than a hot bowl of soup on a cold day. While the idea of a home-made soup simmering on the stove sounds appealing, for many people it’s a challenge to prepare this regularly. With the huge variety of canned, boxed and frozen soups available on supermarket shelves, it’s possible to enjoy your favorite soup anytime.
Canned soups have a reputation of being loaded with sodium, and many people suspect added nutritional advantages in boxed soups. And when it comes to weight loss, soup can be either a boost or a sabotage.
What Makes a Healthy Soup?
Sodium content is a big factor to consider when choosing a soup. And the “cut-off” varies, depending on your current health and risk factors. If you don’t need to watch your sodium intake, aim for less than 500 mg of sodium per one cup serving. If you are among the “salt sensitive” groups determined by health guidelines (high blood pressure, family history of high blood pressure, age 50 or older, African-American), you’ll want to aim for less than 200-300 mg per one cup serving.
Sodium label terms are regulated on soups and other foods, and when it comes to a soup label, here’s what to look for:
- No-salt added or unsalted — No salt is added during cooking; not necessarily sodium free
- Low Sodium —140 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Reduced Sodium —at least 25 percent less sodium than the original product
- Light in Sodium —at least 50 percent less sodium than the regular product
Check out the fiber, protein, and fat.
Look for 3-6 grams of fiber per serving — contributed by ingredients like vegetables and beans. Protein sources range from chicken and beef to legumes (like lentils) and tofu.
Watch out for hidden fat in soups with terms like “creamy”. Read the label carefully, because some soups are thickened with cream that can contribute up to 10 grams of added fat, while others contain pureed vegetables to provide a creamy texture without extra fat or calories.
And many soup producers are providing more options to lower the sodium of your favorite choices. From Progresso’s reduced sodium wedding canned soup to Imagine’s creamy butternut squash boxed soup, the nutrient and health benefits of prepared soups continues to rise.
Add frozen or fresh vegetables. It’s easy to boost the nutrient content of your supermarket favorites with your own cooked veggies. Or make your soup a meal by adding a lean protein like chopped chicken or beans.
Cut sodium. If your favorite prepared soup is higher in sodium than you’d like, just water it down and add dried or fresh herbs, or no-salt seasonings like Mrs. Dash to boost flavor.
Here are some healthy and nutrient-rich options on supermarket shelves.
- Health Valley – No-Salt Added Chicken Noodle soup
- Healthy Choice Vegetable soup
- Amy’s Organic Lentil-Vegetable soup (regular or light in sodium)
- Trader Joe light in sodium roasted red pepper soup
- Imagine creamy butternut squash soup (regular or light in sodium)
- Imagine creamy garden vegetable soup, light in sodium
- Swanson Beef broth, 50 percent less sodium
- Kitchen Basics Chicken broth — no salt added
- Tabachnick yellow split pea, barley mushroom, or 3-bean chili soup
- Kettle Cuisine corn potato chowder
- Amy’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup
Remember that boxed and frozen soups can reduce food waste. Leftover soup can be stored for 7-10 days in the refrigerator, in the original box. And frozen soups serve 1-2, so portion control is maintained without leftovers.