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7 ways you can tell if canned soup is healthy

Bowl of tomato soup

A can of soup is a quick and easy meal but is it healthy? Healthy Food Guide dietitian Melissa Meier shares seven ways to tell if the soup you’re buying is a good choice

Take a stroll through the canned soup aisle and you’ll see a huge variety of brands on offer. But some lack the right balance of nutrients, and many contain excessive levels of salt. So how do you know if a canned or packet soup is healthy?

Compare your cans of soup

It’s important to consider three essential nutrients when you’re buying canned soup:

1 Fill up with fibre

Fibre is crucial for gut health and vegetables are a great source of it. Choose a soup with 50 per cent or more veg (check the ingredients list) and you’re off to a good start. Add fibre-rich legumes, such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, to your soups as well as grains such brown rice and barley. This will make sure your soup fills you up for longer.

2 Pack a protein punch

Many vegetable-based soups are low in protein, which might be why some people find them unsatisfying. That’s because we digest protein slowly and this contributes to feelings of fullness. For a satisfying soup, chose one with ingredients such as beef, chicken or legumes. If they’re not in the can, you can always add them, or serve them on the side.

3 Slash the sodium

Canned soups can be teeming with sodium (salt). Some contain well over half your recommended daily sodium limit of 2000mg, which can lead to high blood pressure. To stay safe, make your goal no more than 700mg sodium per serve.

What else is on the shelf?

Canned soup is just one option when it comes to what you can buy for a convenient meal or snack:

4 Dried soup

Powdered soup sachets are usually high in salt, but lack protein and fibre. They are best left on the shelf — or choose a low-sodium brand as a savoury, warming snack.

5 Fresh soup pouches and tubs

Fresh, chilled soups are closest to what you’d make at home, so they can be nutritious. Avoid the coconut- or cream-based varieties, as they can be high
in kilojoules and saturated fat.

6 Shelf-stable soup pouches

These can also be a healthy choice, but check the label as they can be particularly high in sodium. Again, try to avoid coconut- or cream-based soups.

7 What is a good portion size for soup?

Pay careful attention to the serving size on the nutrition information panel on canned soup. Many cans are intended to serve two, so the nutrition information listed per serve is often for only half the can — not the whole thing!

To make your own soup from scratch, check out these delicious recipes!

First published: Jun 2020

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