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Let’s get one thing straight: Canned soup is not the devil. It can remain that coddling, warm-and-fuzzy elixir from your childhood (a true comfort food, if you will), as long as you’re savvy with your label-scanning, knowing which attributes to scout—and which pitfalls to leave on the shelf. Sounds kind of like dating, no?
Luckily, though, we’ve made this easier than picking women for you—much easier—by compiling seven nutritionist-approved varieties to your shopping list. Click through as experts share their favorites (spoiler alert: it might be time to think outside-the-can)—and get tips on how to rev up their nutrition at every meal.
1. Amy’s Organic Light In Sodium Lentil Vegetable
80 calories; 290mg sodium; 6g fiber; 8g protein per serving (2 per can)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a nutritionist who doesn’t recommend Amy’s. That’s because these flavor-packed soups are packaged in BPA-free cans, preservative-free (yes, as in zip, zero, nothing-to-scan-here) and low in sodium. “Even the sodium amount in this isn’t ideal,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., C.D.N., an adjunct nutrition professor at NYU. “But there are other positives here—it has a hearty amount of fiber, a low number of calories, and it’s protein-packed.” Plus those fiber-rich lentils, which also give you a good dose of folate and iron, will leave your tank feeling full.
Upgrade: Slice, dice and drop immune-system-bolstering red bell peppers and hot chili peppers—all high in Vitamin C—into the pot, then turn it up a notch with seasonings. One study found garlic, onion, allspice and oregano to be the most potent bacteria killers.
2. Pacific Foods Organic Light-Sodium Creamy Tomato Soup
100 calories; 380mg sodium; 1g fiber; 5g protein per serving (4 per box)
In general, it’s a safe bet to avoid all creamy soups—most are typically thick, white and high in saturated fat. But this one is veggie-based, pleasingly low in calories and sodium, and uses low-fat milk (no butter, cream, or cheese here). The kicker: Since it comes in an aseptic box, this soup is also BPA-free. “Some of the flavor here is coming from sugar, with each serving containing 12 grams, so just keep your soup accompaniments low in the sweet stuff,” says Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., a clinical dietitian at Brooklyn-based Kings County Hospital Center and co-host of Food Heaven Made Easy with Wendy & Jess. “This soup is tasty by itself or can be used as a healthful base when you’re preparing other soups,” she adds.
Upgrade: Toss in freshly chopped tomatoes, which are rich in the powerful antioxidant lycopene—it’s been linked to reduced prostate cancer risk and lower stroke risk. You can also add one-half cup of rinsed low-sodium black beans for an extra 7g of protein and 8g of fiber, topping it off with a few slices avocado for some heart-healthy monosaturated fats.
3. Healthy Choice Hearty Chicken
130 calories; 480mg sodium; 3g fiber; 8g protein per serving (two per can)
Yes, this one has the highest amount of salt per serving. But beyond the sodium content here, there are health benefits that make this soup worth it for you—promise. It contains one-half cup of vegetables, which makes it a choice for nutritionist Jennifer Dimitriou, M .S., R.D., C.D.N., a nutritionist and bariatric surgery dietitian at New York-based Montefiore Medical Center. Plus, the chicken helps to pack in the protein. (Quick tip: When buying soup, look for white chicken meat to appear in the ingredients label, says Dimitriou.)
Upgrade: Add one to two cans of water before boiling to dilute the salt. Then, pair a serving with a simple, nutrient-packed salad, says Dimitriou. She suggests spinach (an anti-inflammatory cancer fighter), a handful of walnuts (rich in healthy fats), and one-half cup each of strawberries and blueberries (full of antioxidants and vitamin C).
4. Progresso High-fiber 3 Bean Chili with Beans
160 calories; 480mg sodium; 8g protein; 7g fiber per serving (two per can)
Beans are likely the most underrated nutrition powerhouse, says Dimitriou, and this three-bean soup is naturally low-fat and filling—while also free from saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol. That said, despite it’s “high-fiber” labeling, this soup really has about the same amount of fiber as all of the other soups listed here. (Worth pointing out, simply so you know to look at labels closely, beyond their splashy, big-print claims.)
Upgrade: Sprinkle on a quarter cup of low-fat shredded cheese for a calcium boost, and add extra flavor—and health benefits—with chopped onion (a natural antibacterial) and immune-boosting garlic cloves.
5. Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Minestrone Soup
200 calories; 140mg sodium; 7g protein; 5g fiber per one-can serving
This hearty soup is naturally high in immune-boosting vitamin C, serves as an excellent source of iron, and also contains healthy fats from olive oil, says Dr. Young, whose top overall super-soup picks are minestrone and bean. Plus, a single serving packs vegetables like roasted yellow peppers, red peppers, and zucchini, the likes of which you don’t often see in packaged soups. The only drawbacks? The soup does contain some MSG-like ingredients (it’s hard to find many processed foods that don’t), and this particular variety is not available in BPA-free packaging, like some other Trader Joe’s products.
Upgrade: To round out your meal, pair with a whole-wheat pita (look for the word “whole” to appear before the grain as the first ingredient on the list), low-sodium turkey (for added protein) and a slice of part-skim (or low-fat) cheese.
6. Tabatchnicks Low Sodium Split Pea Soup
140 calories; 80mg sodium; 13g protein; 14g fiber per one-package serving
The nutrition is all in the numbers here (look at those protein and fiber counts!), and this frozen soup is shockingly low in sodium, says Dr. Young. Plus, it has a pretty natural ingredients list (green split peas, carrots, onions, celery, parsley, dill, garlic, garlic powder and black pepper), and is high in vitamin A and iron. Bonus: Its packaging is BPA-free. This might just be the best soup on our list?
Upgrade: Add chunks of potato to provide a dose of vitamins C and B6, as well as copper, potassium, and dietary fiber, says Jones. Also toss in carrots (high in vitamin A) and black-eyed peas (high in zinc) for a boost.
7. Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Chicken Noodle
80 calories; 135mg sodium; 5g protein; 1g fiber per one-package serving
Come on. We wouldn’t leave you hanging without a version of this classic feel-better-soon soup, and this no-sodium source is packed with vitamin A, says Jones. You’ll also get ample servings of organic carrots, celery and dark meat chicken. It is, however, a little on the low side in terms of fiber, but that can be easily boosted.
Upgrade: Add fresh or frozen broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cabbage, which are some of the highest-fiber vegetables. You can also get some extra protein in there by adding leftovers of lean, skinless turkey or chicken breast.
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