28 Best and Worst Canned Soups and Soup Products
Just when you thought summer would last forever, you blink as a yellowed, crunchy leaf falls from a tree onto your face. Blink again, and basically every tree in the park has dropped its leaves—and you still haven't unpacked your sweaters from storage. It's no wonder many of us reach for canned soup in the first weeks of autumn; we need something to keep us warm!
The only issue? While canned soups feel like a bargain (a healthy, soothing meal for cents on the dollar!) these processed goods are truly some of the sneakiest diet saboteurs of them all. Even if your pick is low in calories and fat, it's likely overflowing with sodium—some are over 1,200 milligrams—which is bad news for your gut. Constantly flooding your system with sodium can overwork your kidneys. As a result, the salt sits in your bloodstream where it attracts water, causing water retention and bloat, making you look five pounds heavier. Another problem is the addition of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavoring agent that increases appetite and may cause migraines.
But that doesn't mean you need to can the cans. Manufacturers have come out with countless waistline-friendly options that can warm you up without filling you out. Because many labels are more than misleading, we've done the dirty work and combed through the dozens of picks on your supermarket shelves to find Eat This-approved soups. We've listed many of the popular flavors, as well as ranked the building blocks that you'd use to whip up your own favorite recipe at home. Don't have a killer go-to soup recipe yet? Make it one of these best-ever fat-burning soups—and take it easy with the salt shaker.
Pacific Organic Chicken Noodle Soup, Reduced Sodium
Campbell's Healthy Request Homestyle Chicken with Whole Grain Pasta
Ingredients you want to see in your chicken soup: cooked chicken, chicken broth, peas, carrots, spices. Ingredients you don't want to see: potassium chloride, maltodextrin, yeast extract, carrot juice concentrate, sugar, flavoring, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and a slew of others. Just because both options are low sodium doesn't mean they're both good for you. Pick up Pacific's organic option over Campbell's if you don't want to sip on the same contents that are found in a food scientist's test tube.
Bar Harbor Condensed New England Clam Chowder
SNOW's By Bumble Bee Condensed New England Clam Chowder
After scouring the shelves for the best-canned clam chowder, we came to the conclusion that your safest bet is to grab a condensed version. Ready-to-eat cans contain loads of preservatives, gums, and additives to retain that creamy, thick taste. With these condensed versions, you have to power to add as much milk, cream, and butter as you'd like. The best base is Bar Harbor's, which is packed with protein (so you know there are a lot of clams!) and boasts a moderate sodium content. SNOW's is low in protein, high in sodium, and full of corn syrup solids, soybean oil, and artificial color—which is also one of the scary ingredients in your kid's lunch box.
Pacific Organic Vegetable Lentil & Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Reduced Sodium
Progresso Lentil Soup
Some of your best weapons against fighting fat are foods high in protein and fiber, and lentil soup has significant amounts of both. While Progresso packs a third of your day's worth of sodium in just a cup (and nearly twice of Pacific's offering), Pacific is packed with protein in their hearty, clean soup.
Amy's Organic Light in Sodium Minestrone Soup
Progresso Reduced Sodium Hearty Minestrone
Both options are low in sodium, but only canned soup is worth eating: Amy's Organic (which also make a pretty good frozen pizza). Minestrone soup is supposed to be teeming with vegetables and a rich broth, not riddled with additives like corn syrup, natural flavor, caramel color, soy lecithin, and faux-thickening-agent calcium chloride like in Progresso's option.
Wolfgang Puck Organic Tomato Basil Bisque
Campbell's Slow Kettle Style Tomato & Sweet Basil Bisque
Often a staple pairing with gooey grilled cheese, tomato bisque is certainly a soup of comfort and tradition. Don't be fooled by Campbell's new "Slow Kettle Style" offering, which serves up as much sugar as what you'd find in 130 Teddy Graham cookies. Wolfgang Puck's organic offering contains home-pantry-style ingredients and nutritionals that won't derail your diet. The same can't be said for these worst pasta sauces.
Progresso Light Vegetable Soup
Campbell's Chunky Healthy Request Savory Vegetable
Because veggies are low-cal and full of hunger-quelling fiber, vegetable soup is one of the most waist-friendly meals around. Not to mention, it's also chock-full of other beneficial vitamins and nutrients. But vegetarians beware: just because it says "garden vegetable" doesn't mean it's solely full of veggies. Campbell's choice has both chicken broth, chicken fat, and beef fat. Progresso's option is completely vegetarian and contains fewer carbs and less sugar than Campbell's offering.
Pacific Organic Spicy Black Bean and Kale Soup
Amy's Organic Black Bean Vegetable Soup
Looking for some protein without the beef? The beans in these soups deliver big time. But even more so if you're grabbing a carton of Pacific's organic as opposed to Amy's. They both offer options with Eat This-approved ingredients, but Pacific is lower in calories, sodium, and sugar, and higher in protein than their organic comrade. For more meat-free options, check out these best vegetarians sources of protein.
Campbell's Chunky Chili Grilled Steak with Beans
Stagg Chili Steak House Reserve Chili with Beans
For a hearty soup, look no further than chili. Campbell's Chunky Grilled Steak with Beans is surprisingly lean; There aren't many kinds of soup on the shelf that can top a mere 200 calories per serving. One of the ones that can't is the Steak House Reserve from Stagg, which racks up a solid chunk of your recommended intake of sodium for the day. Not to mention, the can is tinted with caramel color—an additive which may contain an artificial form of phosphorous that's been shown to leach calcium from our bones. Other foods with this nasty ingredient? Sodas.
Pacific Organic Chicken Bone Broth
Kitchen Basics Organic Chicken Bone Broth
Sipping on bone broth is a great way to heal your gut. After animal bones are simmered in water, their collagen turns into a rich broth full of gelatin. "When we ingest it, it acts as an intestinal Band-Aid, protecting and healing the lining of the digestive tract which aids digestion and helps us absorb extra nutrients from the foods we eat," explains nutritionist Lauren Slayton, MS, RD. Besides the fact that Pacific's bone broth is lower in calories and sodium than that of Kitchen Basics, we also like their addition of cider vinegar to the broth—which Slayton also recommends. Apple cider vinegar is another ingredient that will further improve your digestion thanks to it containing active enzymes.
Soup On the Go
Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken & Mini Round Noodles Soup
Campbell's Chicken & Mini Round Noodles Soup
If you're grabbing a cup to go, use Campbell's "Healthy Request" label as your go-to guide. This series of soup choices differs in that they're lower in blood-pressure-raising sodium. Saving 570 mg of sodium—or about 25 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium—is definitely worth the extra gram of sugar Campbell's adds to make up for lost flavor (which only accounts for 2 percent of your recommended intake of added sugars).
Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Chicken Base
Knorr Bouillon, Chicken Flavor With Other Natural Flavor
If you've ever examined a bouillon cube's ingredient list before, you've most likely noticed that salt is often the first ingredient. That really shows in Knorr's version, as just a half a cube racks up over half a day's worth of the stuff, leaving you more than parched for a glass of detox water. Not to mention, it's loaded with five versions of MSG, potentially trans-fat-laden hydrogenated palm oil, caramel color, artificial colors Yellow 5 and 6, as well as TBHQ—a corrosion inhibitor also used in biodiesel. Instead, grab a broth concentrate like that from Better Than Bouillon (bonus points for reduced sodium!). This stock is super-reduced until it's just a paste-like product that's packed with flavor. Our pick is made up of real chicken meat with natural juices, spices, only one source of MSG, and colored with turmeric instead of coal-derived artificial colors.
Kitchen Basics Unsalted Vegetable Cooking Stock
Swanson's Certified Organic Vegetarian Vegetable Broth
The fact that Kitchen Basics offers an unsalted version almost was enough to earn them first place, but they also have one of the shortest ingredients lists of all brands and their production reflects traditional homecooked methods (i.e. simmering whole vegetables in water). Swanson's—on the other hand—is a salty broth that's flavored with the ambiguous ingredient: "spices."
Kitchen Basics Original Beef Stock
Knorr Homestyle Beef Stock Concentrate
A staple for French onion soups, beef stock is a tricky product to purchase. That's because store-bought versions are littered with flavor-enhancing chemicals and not much beef. For example: Knorr's Beef Stock Concentrate contains inflammatory palm oil, four versions of MSG, sugar, two types of gums, and carcinogen-containing caramel color. If you don't have time to make a stock at home (which is your best option), go for Kitchen Basics' Original Beef Stock, which contains real beef stock rather than just beef flavor, vegetable stock, honey, salt, and spices—much simpler than Knorr's. Plus, it's a surprisingly great source of protein!
Imagine Foods Organic Free-Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
College Inn Chicken Broth (Can)
When shopping for a chicken broth, look for low-sodium options so you can adjust the seasoning yourself. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with an option like College Inn that soars to almost 1,000 milligrams per cup. We also like organic stocks, which use chickens not raised with antibiotics or hormones. Otherwise, look for a short list of ingredients without any MSG, hydrolyzed protein, or yeast extract. College Inn contains two out of the three of these along with a type of trans fat, mono and diglycerides, as well as added sugar (in the form of carrot juice concentrate), vegetable juice concentrates (instead of real vegetables), and xanthan gum. If you can't find Imagine, make your soup with Swanson's Organic Low-Sodium Chicken broth. It's a taste-tester favorite, but it was just a little too high in sodium for it to take our first spot. Speaking of making your own soup, whip up a bowl of one of these high-protein soups for abs!