The Healthy Canned Soup Brands Nutritionists Swear By

When it gets colder, everyone wants soup—but not everyone has the time to make it. If you’re lacking culinary motivation, there are plenty of soup options in the grocery store aisles, from canned to tetra paks to frozen meals. But canned soup doesn’t have the best reputation, especially when it comes to sodium content.

Pulling our cardigans closer, we wondered if it would be possible to get a hot lunch and asked nutritionists what they think of soup and what they look for when stocking up for the cold days ahead.

First, it’s clear that soup is something food experts love. “A good soup makes everything perfect,” says Amanda Frankeny, a qualified nutritionist. And she doesn’t mind having the wrapped things on hand.

“It’s definitely a time saver,” Frankeny said. “On busy work days, when illness strikes, or when a busy schedule takes over in the fall, I sometimes just feel like grabbing the soup from my pantry.”

At a busy time of year, packaged soup can be a lifesaver. “A lot of people get distracted from work and end up missing meals,” said a registered dietitian Vanessa Risetto. “Having soup on hand can help ease the burden of preparation and can help stabilize your blood sugar if timed right.”

Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian and nutritionist specializing in plant-based integrative nutrition, agreed. “Soup is one of the simplest and best meals in a pinch,” she said. “You can get a balanced meal — including vegetables, protein and whole grains — all in one dish. And the soup is hydrating too.”

Another plus: Soup is “very comforting, especially in the colder months,” said the registered nutritionist Jerlyn Jones. “Soups have the potential to contain a variety of healthy ingredients in a single meal that provide various nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and antioxidants,” she noted.

For qualified nutritionists Chelsea America, the cozy qualities of the soup make a big difference, especially at this time of year. “It’s such a comforting meal with such tremendous nutritional potential, so it’s a winter staple for me,” she said.

Scouting for sodium

The American Heart Association encourages people to limit sodium to a maximum of 2,300 milligrams per day, Frankeny noted. “There are tons of low-sodium soups on the market, and many hit the mark in terms of palatability,” she added.

Packaged foods, including soups, account for the bulk of many people’s sodium consumption, Jones said. And that can be a problem. “High-sodium diets are associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease,” she said.

“If you read labels, as a general guide: 5% DV [Daily Value] or less sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% “DV or more sodium per serving is considered high,” explained Jones. “Look for words like ‘no salt added’ and ‘low sodium’. Your best bets are hearty broth-based soups loaded with colorful veggies, whole grains, and beans.”

Packaged soups can be high in sodium, so keep an eye out. “Many packaged soups are chock-full of sodium — sometimes up to 1,000 milligrams per serving,” said a registered dietitian Sharon Palmer. “That could be nearly half your sodium goal for the day. Also, watch out for ingredients that may be less healthy, like bacon, cream, and cheese.”

Make sure it fills up

“If your soup is going to be a meal, make sure it has an adequate amount of protein and fiber,” Gorin said. Rissetto added, “While tomato soup is delicious, it won’t stop you, so soups with beans or chicken are my top choices.”

“Fat is especially important if you’re only eating soup,” Amer said. “Fat is digested slowly, so you stay full longer.”

Now that you’ve made a choice, you can personalize your bowl. “If you need more flavor, add your own ingredients, like a squeeze of citrus juice or zest, vinegar, caramelized veggies, herbs, or a dollop of tomato paste,” Frankeny said. “If you need to reduce the salty taste of the average soup, add water or extra fresh or frozen vegetables to the mix.”

Rissetto said she also adds “dark greens like spinach to the soup for extra fiber, flavor and richness.”

“Fun and satisfaction come first,” said Frankeny. “Give yourself permission to eat the foods you love, including soup. If health is your priority, you can always find something to satisfy your hunger and warm your bones.”

The favorites of nutritionists

These are the brands that our experts recommended.

amy’s

Amy’s kitchen

“These soups are my favorite brand,” Jones said. “They are delicious and there are options for everyone. I can buy soups that are vegan, plant-based, or gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, or corn-free. I also love supporting brands like Amy’s Kitchen because they are a family business dedicated to sourcing fresh, organic ingredients from local farmers.”

Campbell’s

Campbell’s fountain yes!

“I’m a big fan of these soups because they’re an easy way to eat more veggies,” Amer said. “When your pantry is stocked, you always have veggies available, even if you run out of groceries.”

Frankeny’s favorite is vegetable noodle soup, lightly salted. “If health is your number one priority, this Campbell brand ticks all the boxes,” she said. “Their food science team and nutritionists have worked wonders with the canned soup. The can is also BPA-free.”

kettle & fire

kettle and fire

“This is one of my favorite bone broth brands,” Amer said. “Bone broths contain more protein than chicken or beef broth, so they’re a great snack.”

Pacific Foods

Pacific Foods

This brand was the clear favorite among the nutritionists we surveyed. “I really like Pacific Foods’ low-sodium options,” said Rissetto. “Chicken Noodle and Bean are both favorites.”

“I appreciate the variety of plant-based soups they offer,” Gorin said. “One of my favorites is the Organic Vegetable Lentil Soup, which provides seven grams of protein and four grams of fiber per serving. That’s an excellent amount of both of these nutrients, which help keep you fuller for longer.”

Palmer is also a fan. “This is one of my favorite packaged soups, and I always have a few varieties on my pantry shelf,” she said. “The soups are organic, plant-based and lower in sodium, and they taste really good too. … The split pea or vegetable lentil varieties can be a meal for me.”

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