Guide to packaged soups
While making soup is a great way to use up leftover vegetables and avoid waste, there are also ready-made packaged soups for those times when convenience is the name of the game. HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr investigates.
The quantities made up from dried soup varies: some dried soup sachet mixes make one cup, others make three cups. Soups made in a cup are quick and easy. The three-cup soup mixes are mixed with water and brought to boiling point on a stove-top or in a bowl in the microwave. This takes about seven or eight minutes.
While water reconstitutes the dried ingredients, these soups lack bulk so don’t expect them to fill you up. A starchy thickener is often found in the ingredients list of powdered or dehydrated soups. This adds body when drinking the soup, but it’s best to think of these soups as more of a flavoursome hot drink — keeping in mind they contain a lot more sodium than other hot drinks.
Dried soups are the cheapest soups at around 30 cents to $1.40 to make a cup.
Soups in their own cup/ bowl
King Soup Singles come in their own cup complete with a folded plastic spoon. The chicken and corn variety contains a sachet with what looks like creamed corn and another sachet containing the powdered ingredients. These are simply mixed with boiling water to make the soup. Wattie’s Big ‘n Hearty Microwave soups come in their own bowl so all you have to do is heat them for two minutes.
Expect to pay from around $2.00 to $3.70 for these soups.
Shelf-stable liquid soups
As well as the more traditional canned soups, we can buy single-serve concentrated liquid soup in a squeezable plastic tube and liquid soups in shelf-stable pouches. Some canned soups are condensed so water, or milk for creamy varieties, needs to be added.
These soups range from as little as $1.30 for a can of condensed soup that will make 830g to $1.90 for a 300g single serve can.
Fresh chilled soups
Most brands of fresh soup in the chiller are in pouches, although the Tasty Pot range is packaged in plastic pots. Fresh chilled soups are easily heated in the microwave or on the stove. Fresh soups tend to be the most like homemade soups, with ingredients you would recognise from your own kitchen.
As you might expect, these soups are also the most expensive. Expect to pay from around $4.70 to $6.40 for a 500 to 600g pouch that serves two.
For a snack or entrée, we recommend choosing soups with less than 600kJ per serve but for a warming, satisfying light meal go for heartier soups and serve with a grainy bread.
Most soups are low in fat but watch out for soups with coconut milk or creamy soups as these can be high in saturated fat. For a snack aim for 1g or less saturated fat per serve, and for a light meal 3g or less saturated fat per serve.
Unfortunately, fibre is not usually listed on the nutrition information panel, so keep in mind that more legumes and more vegetables listed in ingredients mean more fibre.
Beware the sodium!
The sodium content in soups varies enormously, and can be surprisingly high. It really does pay to check and compare products. For a main we prefer soups with 800mg or less sodium per serve. For the single-serve soups, the lowest sodium products we could find were only just short of 500mg per serve, and most were higher. This is high for a snack and not suitable for people aiming for a low-sodium diet.
Check the date
When buying fresh chilled soups there is usually between one to three months left before they reach their ‘use by’ date. A ‘use by’ date is about food safety and we should not use a product once it has passed its ‘use by’ date.
In contrast, a ‘best before’ date is about product quality and we can use products after this date without fear of food poisoning. When buying shelf-stable soups they are likely to have a ‘best before’ date that will not be reached for 12 months or more.
Add more goodness
- Adding vegetables to small serve and/or low energy (kJ) soups is a good idea. Any chopped or grated vegetables, such as leftover roasted veges, will do the trick.
- Red lentils are an easy legume to add as these cook in about 15 minutes. One-quarter cup (raw) red lentils will add just over 600kJ with a healthy 12g protein and 4g fibre as well as folate, potassium, iron and zinc.
- Add drained canned legumes, but beware: this adds more sodium, even when legumes are rinsed to remove the salty brine.
- For extra zing, add freshly chopped herbs or even a favourite herb or spice mix.