A Guide to: Supermarket Soups
I was never a big fan of soups until a few months ago. when I was very sick for a long time and all I wanted to eat was soup. I tried many of the premade ones from the supermarket but was really unimpressed with most of them. In the end, I made huge batches of Pasta y Fagioli which was my go-to dinner for a time. But there isn’t always the time (or energy) to make your own food from scratch. So use this guide to help you find a healthier option if you are time-poor and craving a warm, hot bowl of soup for dinner.
Soups can be healthy – if you choose the right one. Often the premade ones in the shops are loaded with salt. Salt is used to improve the taste and flavour of food. It is also used to preserve food by drawing out the moisture, making it hard for bacteria to grow. This prolongs the lifespan so food can be kept for a long time.
What’s the difference between salt and sodium?
Salt is a mineral, made up of sodium and chloride, but we are only concerned about the sodium in salt having a negative health effect. So we should be keeping track of the sodium, not salt on food labels.
Do we need salt?
While we do need some sodium (or salt) in our body to help regulate fluid levels, most people get more than enough dietary sodium without adding any extra. We only need 200mg of sodium per day, which is about half a gram of salt. with no more than one teaspoon a day. However, the average Western diet provides much more than this. More than 75 percent of our sodium intake is from processed and takeaway food, with only 25 percent being added at the table. This is bad news for me, as I am a big lover of olives, smoked salmon, anchovies or basically anything that almost entirely composed of salt. This is something I am consciously making an effort to cut down on.
Eating a diet high in salt increases the amount of sodium in the body. In response, our body retains fluid to keep restore the sodium level. This causes blood volume to increase, which requires the heart to work harder to pump all that extra fluid around the body, thus increasing blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke if not managed. Some people don’t realise that high blood pressure is also linked to kidney stones, oedema and osteoporosis.
3 steps to pick the healthiest soup.
1. Read the label
Many premade soups are high in sodium so if know what to look for you can find healthier options. Here’s how: Pick two soups you like the look of. Turn them over to see the Nutritional Information Panel.
Pick the one with the lowest amount of sodium. If you need to cut back on salt, choose foods less than 120mg per 100 grams for a low-salt option. If that’s not possible, aim to avoid anything more 600mg per 100 grams as this is considered a high amount of salt. Remember we only need 200mg a day.
ote: in the above example this soup is for 2 servings, chances are a person would eat a whole tin on their own. So they’d actually be having 1300mg of salt.
2. Veg out
Pick a vegetable-based soup or clear broth and not a cream-based soup. The vegetable and broth choices contain fewer calories and will be lower in fat. Plus vegetable or legume-based soups count toward your vegetable servings for the day as well as offering fibre, vitamins and minerals. Consider adding vegetables or legumes (think lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) to a soup to boost the nutrient content.
3. Sugar monster
Some tinned soups contain added sugar. So check the label for how much sugar there is per 100 grams, anything less than five grams per 100 grams is a good option.
Sound like too much hard work? Don’t worry, I have run the numbers and can recommendations what to choose and avoid!
- Heinz Classic Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup
Low fat, low sugar and lower in salt than other tinned soups. It also contains two serves of vegetables. It is low in protein, though, so adding half a tin of kidney beans or lean meat, such as chicken.
- Macro Organic Vegetable and Lentil Soup
This is another option that is low-fat, low sugar and lower in salt than other soups. It also contains lentils that offer a source of protein.
- Pitango Chunky Vegetable and Quinoa Soup
Contains nine different vegetables and whole grains; this soup is a great option. As with the other suggestions, its low fat, low sugar and lower in salt than other soups.
Put me back on the shelf
- Laksa soup
Laska tastes great, but the main ingredient in laksa is coconut milk – which is super high in saturated fat. Laksa soups can be high in sodium, too.
- Creamy mushroom/pumpkin soup
Anything with the word ‘creamy’ in it will have higher amounts of fat (in particular, saturated fat) in it.
- Tomato soup
Check the label first as this flavour is generally higher in sugar than other flavours since tomatoes are quite acidic and salty. The sugar is added to balance the flavour.
Want some crackers with your soup? Check out my guide to the healthiest crackers here.