There’s a chill in the air and ice on the ground, which means that you probably want something warm in your belly. Unfortunately, “warm” often translates to “fatty,” “salty” or “low-nutritional value.” Sometimes, that’s just what your situation calls for (hey, who are we to tell you after a long day shoveling snow that you can’t indulge in something deliciously fattening?) but other times, you want something warm without the added calories, fat and sodium.
Staring down the soup aisle can be an intimidating experience when you’re looking for something fast, tasty and healthy. What are you even looking for in a soup? We didn’t know either, and that’s why we consulted registered dietitian Shauna Lindzon.
Shauna says that to get the biggest bang for your nutritional buck, a soup should have more than 5 grams of fibre, 8 grams of protein and no more than 500 milligrams of salt and 1 gram total saturated fat per 1 cup serving. Shauna advises making soup half of your meal and pairing one cup with a protein and fibre-rich sandwich or salad to take more control over your meal.
Don’t forget to read the ingredients list of any soup you select. Shauna warns against anything that contains monosodium glutamate (MSG) because it ups the sodium content and is difficult for many people to digest. A fresh soup (typically sold in jars) will usually offer the simplest ingredients, highest fibre and protein content and the least sodium.
A quick note on protein: soups that are heavy on the veggies or noodles tend to be light on the protein. Shauna suggests adding your own protein in the form of beans, legumes, cheese or a glass of milk. Don’t be afraid to add to your soup – it’s a great way to bump up the flavour and nutritional value.
So how do those classic canned (and powdered) soups stack up? Take a look.
And remember: at the end of the day, making your own soup is usually muuuch healthier.
Which grocery store soups are actually good for you?
- Calories: 120 Protein: 7g Fibre: 2g Sodium: 650mg As far as canned soups go, this one is just a little too low and a little too high in all the wrong places. The saturated fat content is right at the 1g cusp too and reading the ingredients reveals that it contains the dreaded MSG. A classic, but sadly, not high in nutritional value (although it could be worse). Campbell’s
- Calories: 70 Protein: 2g Fibre: 0g Sodium: 790mg Pretty much all of us have memories of staying home sick from school and cozying up with a bowl of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Unfortunately, a peek at the ingredients reveals that sick-food might not have been all that great for you. Not only does it have little nutritional value, it contains MSG and about one third of your daily sodium allowance. Definitely not the best choice. Lipton
- Calories: 190 Protein: 3g Fibre: 2g Sodium: 480mg The creamy tomato is another childhood classic, but it could be redeemed with a little bit of effort on your part. It doesn’t contain MSG and has a low enough sodium content to act as a base in a heartier soup you create yourself. You can add in lean protein like beans or lentils and fibre-rich veggies to make this a healthy meal. Campbell’s
- Calories: 120 Protein: 5g Fibre: 5g Sodium: 480mg Or, if you want a self-contained meal, try a soup like this one. Still not as much protein as we might like (easily fixed with some add-ins), but there's no MSG and it meets our requirements in every other category. This soup is the healthiest one we’ve seen thus far (and it looks like Campbell’s knows it). Campbell’s
- Calories: 90 Protein: 2g Fibre: 3g Sodium: 760mg And yet, not all veggie soups are created equal. This one has nowhere near enough protein or fibre and way too much sodium. It may boast a full serving of vegetables, but there are far better ways to make your quota. Habitant
- Calories: 240 Protein: 3g Fibre: 3g Sodium: 650mg Things get tricky with creamy soups because saturated fat becomes more of an issue. Not only is this soup too high in sodium and too low in the good stuff, it has 4g of saturated fat. For something that stacks up a little better, you can try Campbell’s “light” version (480mg sodium, 2g saturated fat) but the fibre and protein aren’t any better. Campbell’s
- Calories: 110 Protein: 3g Fibre: 1g Sodium: 790mg Maybe broccoli is more your speed? Despite its status as a 'leafy green,' it doesn't add much nutritional value to this soup. There’s even less fibre per serving, plus the sodium is through the roof again. If we’re counting marginal improvements though, the saturated fat is less at 1.5g (though still over our benchmark). Campbell’s
- Calories: 140 Protein: 4g Fibre: 5g Sodium: 820mg What does a three Micheline Star chef have to say about soup? Puck’s Minestrone actually stacks up okay in the fibre department, does comparatively well in protein (though still only half of what we want) but completely bottoms out in sodium. It’s the saltiest soup on here, but hey, it’s organic. Wolfgang Puck
- Calories: 100 Protein: 2g Fibre: 2g Sodium: 740mg If you’re looking for autumn flavours, butternut squash is certainly a favourite but this one has way too much sodium and not enough good stuff. Realistically, butternut squash soup is one of the simplest ones to make – just roast a squash, then whiz it up with some liquid. Why not give it a try?Baxters Favourites
- Calories: 280 Protein: 4g Fibre: 1g Sodium: 970mg If you’re looking to branch out from the classics, we’re sorry to say, you might be sacrificing the health rating (although, as previously stated, you’re allowed to #TreatYourself). This baby comes in at almost half your daily sodium intake with very little protein and fibre to show for it. Add to that the 7g of saturated fat. But on the plus side: none of that MSG. Campbell’s