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Soup's on.

Another day...another struggle to find something different, delicious, and healthy to put in your sandwich.

Ditch the sandwich. Have a bowl of soup instead.

Americans need to eat less meat and cheese and more grains, vegetables, and beans. No one's saying you can't get beans and carrots between two slices of bread. But it's a good deal easier to spoon them out of a cup. You can still have the bread - and maybe even a salad - on the side.

The trick is finding a soup that's healthy...and tasty. If you steer clear of most creamed soups and ramen noodles, it's not too tough to dodge the fat. But finding a nutrient-packed, flavorful soup without half a day's worth of salt is quite a feat.

That's why we did it for you.


To most people, the word "soup" conjures up a single image: the red and white Campbell's can that has dominated the U.S. soup market for decades. Unfortunately, Campbell's regular line of condensed soups has, on average, more than 800 milligrams of sodium and only 85 calories.

That's a third of your daily sodium limit in a food that has less than a twentieth of the calories in a 2,000-calorie diet. And that's if you eat only one cup.

Campbell's Chunky and Home Cookin' lines are about as salty. Ditto for the average Progresso, Hain, Snow's, Baxters, or Andersen's.

In recent years, the soupmakers' salt shakers have lightened up...a little. Healthy Choice averages 560 mg per cup, while Campbell's Healthy Request line hits about 465 mg, and Progresso Healthy Classics clock in at 455 mg. With those line averages, several soups hit the 300-to-500-mg range they needed to get an "Honorable Mention."

The taste? Of those we tested, Progresso's Healthy Classics Lentil and Healthy Classics Beef Barley, Campbell's Healthy Request Split Pea with Ham, and Bearitos Fat Free Black Bean Soup were quite good. Health Valley's Fat-Free Black Bean & Vegetable, Fat Free Split Pea & Carrots, Organic Minestrone, Organic Mushroom Barley, and Organic Potato Leek were not.

Of course, to stay under the recommended 2,400 mg a day, you may seek a still-lowersodium soup. Watch out.

For some reason, most low-salt canned soups by Health Valley, Pritikin, and Hain taste...well, like the can. Of the "Best Bites" in our chart, only Pritikin's Navy Bean and Tomato were passable. In general, if you want good flavor in a low-salt soup, you're better off with dried than canned.


Just as canned soup used to mean Campbell's, dried soup used to mean Lipton's. No longer.

Taste Adventure, Fantastic Foods, and Nile Spice now sell a different breed of dried soup. They're typically lower in salt and richer in beans, grains, and flavor.

Only two - fantastic Foods' Only A Pinch Lentils & Couscous and Spanish Rice & Beans - met the 300 mg sodium cutoff for "Best Bites. Both also got a thumbs up for taste.

Among the "Honorable Mentions" - which could hit 500 mg of sodium - we also liked most of the dried soups we tasted: Taste Adventure's Minestrone and Navy Bean; Nile Spice's Black Bean, Lentil, and Split Pea; and Fantastic Foods' Black Bean, Cha-cha Chili, Laughin' Lentil, Minestrone and Lentils Over Couscous.

In contrast, our tastebuds gave a thumbs down to Fantastic Foods' Barley Vegetable, Broccoli'n Cheddar, and Corn & Potato Chowder.

A bonus: these newer brands of dried soups have fewer additives like MSG and disodium inosinate. If you can't find them in your supermarket, try a food co-op or natural foods store.


Frozen soups? They may cost a bit more than canned or dried, but they taste like homemade. Tabatchnick's No Salt soups (Barley and Mushroom, Pea, and Vegetable) and Jaclyn's Vegetable, Lentil, and Split Pea all met our criteria for "Best Bites."

That means they not only had no more than 300 mg of sodium and no more than three grams of fat, but also had enough nutritious ingredients to meet our vitamin-mineral-and-fiber criteria (see chart). What with all that real food, they didn't need the usual flavor enhancers" like MSG.

A soup made of nothing but fresh, flavorful food? What a novel idea. Maybe it'll catch on.


Dried ramen or noodle soups seem so innocent. What could be wrong with a bowl full of noodles and broth? Plenty.

Companies like Campbell, Nissin, and Maruchan apparently fry their noodles in fat before the soup is dried. And it's often saturated palm oil.

So an individual serving - which ranges from one to two cups - delivers 10 to 18 grams of fat. Adding salt to the wound, those manufacturers typically throw in 1,000 to 1,800 milligrams of sodium. Few foods are worse than that.

Campbell's Low Fat Ramen Noodles are lower in fat, but the sodium is still sky-high. If you want noodles, add some very thin spaghetti to a lowersodium chicken broth.

From Souper to Salty

Our "Best Bites" had no more than three grams of fat and 300 milligrams of sodium in an eight-ounce serving (for multiple-serve containers) or per serving (for individual-serving containers). They also had at least 10 percent of the Daily Value for at least two of the following: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and fiber. "Honorable Mentions" met the same criteria, except that sodium could hit 500 mg. The number in parentheses following the name of each individual-serving soup is how many ounces you'd get by eating the entire container. Products are ranked from lowest fat to highest, before rounding.
Soup Calories Sodium
(8 oz.) (mg)

Multiple-serving Containers

0 Grams of Fat
/ Health Valley Organic No Salt Added(1) 83 78
/ Health Valley Fat-Free Corn & Vegetable 75 235
/ Health Valley Fat-Free 5 Bean Vegetable 107 246
/ Health Valley Fat-Free Tomato Vegetable 54 246
/ Health Valley Fat-Free Vegetable Barley 64 246
/ Health Valley Fat-Free 14 Garden Vegetable 54 268
/ Health Valley Organic Lentil or Tomato(2) 91 284
/ Health Valley Fat-Free Lentil & Carrots 96 289
* Health Valley Fat-Free Black Bean & Vegetable 75 310
* Health Valley Fat-Free or Organic Minestrone(2) 91 310
* Health Valley Fat-Free Split Pea & Carrots 86 310
* Health Valley Organic Mushroom Barley 75 310
* Health Valley Organic Potato Leek 64 310
* Conrad Rice Black Bean 140 370

* Bearitos Fat Free Black Bean, Lentil, Navy Bean,
 Split Pea, or Vegetable(2) 94 480
 Baxters 100% Fat Free(1) 90 887

1 Gram of Fat
* Taste Adventure Minestrone or Navy Bean(2) 136 327
 Lipton Soup Secrets or Recipe Secrets(1) 47 619
/ Hain 99% Fat Free No Salt Added Lentil 118 50
/ Hain 99% Fat Free No Salt Added Split Pea 126 59

/ Pritikin Lentil, Minestrone, Navy Bean,
 Split Pea, Tomato, or Vegetable(2) 98 161
* Progresso Healthy Classics Lentil 120 420
 Healthy Choice Lentil or Minestrone(2) 161 535
 Healthy Choice Garden Vegetable or Chili Beef(2) 134 599
 Campbell's Soup and Recipe Mix(1) 96 714

2 Grams of Fat * Campbell's Healthy Request Split Pea with Ham 150


Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken Noodle,

Minestrone, or Tomato(2) 80 430

Progresso Healthy Classics Chicken Noodle,

Chicken Rice, or Minestrone(2) 93 463

Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Chicken,
 Cream of Mushroom, or Vegetable(2) 73 490
* Healthy Choice Bean and Ham 182 492

3 Grams of fat
 Knorr, regular or Chef's Collection mix(1) 87 856
 Campbell's Healthy Request Hearty Chicken Rice 110 480
* Progresso Healthy Classics Beef Barley 140 480
 Hain, regular(1) 98 783
 Campbell's, regular(1) 87 811
 Snow's(1),(3) 113 698

4-6 Grams of Fat
 Campbell's Home Cookin'(1) 129 789
 Progresso, regular or Pasta(1) 111 758
 Andersen's(1) 173 783
 Campbell's Chunky(1) 164 822

Individual-Serving Containers

1 Gram of fat
/ Jaclyn's Vegetable (7.5) 90 195
* Nile Spice Black Bean, Lentil, or Split Pea(2) (10.0) 190 460
 Spice Hunter Quick & Natural Lentil (10.5) 160 580
/ Tabatchnick No Salt(1) (7.5) 121 167

2 Grams of Fat
/ Fantastic Foods Only A Pinch(1) (10.0) 217 120
* Fantastic Foods, regular(4) (10.0) 190 487
 Tabatchnick, regular(1) (7.5) 110 626
 / Jaclyn's Lentil or Split Pea(2) (7.5) 135 182
* Weight Watchers Chunky Beef Stew (7.5) 120 450

Fantastic Foods Cream of Mushroom or
 Snow Peas & Rice(2) (10.0) 125 485
 Campbell's Low Fat Ramen Noodle Cup(1) (12.4) 223 1,448
 Lipton Cup-A-Soup(1) (6.0) 78 639

4-5 Grams of Fat
 Campbell's Low Sodium Split Pea (10.8) 230 30
 Campbell's Microwave(1) (7.8) 141 930

10-18 Grams of Fat
 Campbell's Ramen Noodle in a Cup(1) (12.4) 273 1,350
 Nissin Cup O' Noodles(1) (8.0) 285 1,520
 Maruchan Instant Lunch(1) (14.0) 290 1,050
 Campbell's Sanwa Ramen Pride Cup(1) (12.4) 333 1,453
 Nissin Top Ramen or Oodles of Noodles(1) (16.0) 395 1,865

/ = "Best Bite." * = "Honorable Mention." (1) = brand average. (2)= average for soups listed. (3) = if made with 1% lowfat milk. (4) = entire line except Cream of Mushroom and Snow Peas & Rice. * All information obtained from manufacturers. The use of information from this article for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission from CSPI.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Brand-Name Comparison
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Dec 1, 1993
Previous Article:Name that deception.
Next Article:Mexican food: oile.

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