Hot soup on a cold day hits the spot, but beneath that warm and fuzzy feeling your favorite store-bought bisque may be hiding excessive sodium, sugar, or saturated fat. Before you buy, read cans carefully. "Look for soups with no more than 480 mg of sodium and 2 g of saturated fat per cup," says Heather K. Jones, RD, author of The Grocery Cart Makeover. Other red flags: unrecognizable ingredients--which are probably chemicals and preservatives--as well as added sugar and hydrogenated oils. "You want the foods you put in your cart and in your body to be as clean as possible," Jones says. (Check out Eat This, Not That 2013, the no diet weight loss solution! )
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You should also be mindful of portion sizes, adds Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It. Most cans of heat-and-eat soup contain two and a half 1-cup servings. "If the serving is half of what you normally consume, remember to double all the nutrition numbers," Taub-Dix says. Feel full faster by choosing a soup packed with appetite-taming protein and fiber.
To help you make smarter soup choices, we've rounded up seven to stock in your pantry, and seven others to skip.
Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder
210 calories, 10 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 890 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g protein
One serving of this supermarket staple contains 59 percent of the American Heart Association's recommended 1,500 mg daily intake of sodium. What's more, this chowder's calories come almost entirely from fat.
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Amy's Organic Light in Sodium - Minestrone Soup
90 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 290 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein
This organic, vegan blend is free of trans fat, MSG, and preservatives, and contains just a fraction of the calories and fat found in the clam chowder. Bonus: A serving will beef up your diet with nearly a third of your daily-recommended vitamin A intake.
Nissin Cup Noodles Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup Mix
300 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,060 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g protein
This just-add-water soup mix is the ultimate in convenience--and sodium. With 1,060 mg of sodium per serving, one Styrofoam cup delivers more than 70 percent of your daily sodium intake and more fat than a small order of French fries.
Earth's Best Organic Elmo Vegetable Soup
70 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 340 mg sodium, 3 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein
Sure, there's a "Sesame Street" character on the can, but this soup's nutritious ingredients make it a great choice for all ages. (Check out these 10 Super-Nutrients for a Flat Belly.) Instead of fat and cholesterol, you'll find calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and more than 25 percent of your daily value of vitamins A, B6, and B12, riboflavin, zinc, iron, thiamin, niacin, and folate.
Goya Black Bean Soup
210 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 1,050 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 20 g dietary fiber, 11 g protein
This black bean soup gets an A+ for its high fiber and protein content, but salt-soaked broth earns it a spot on our "do not buy" list.
Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Lentil Soup
140 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 30 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 8 g dietary fiber, 9 g protein
Living up to its name, this Health Valley pick has unbeatably low amounts of sodium and fat, yet packs in plenty of protein and fiber. (Fiber: Your Diet's Secret Weapon) Cholesterol and saturated fat? Not a trace. We think it could be the perfect soup.
Amy's Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque Soup
130 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 680 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein
Although organic, preservative-free, and sealed in BPA-free cans, this tomato bisque sneaks as much sugar as five Hershey's Kisses. On the label, the sweet stuff is disguised as evaporated cane sugar.
Pacific Organic Light-Sodium Butternut Squash Soup
90 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 280 mg sodium, 4 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 2 g protein
In general, it's best to stay away from creamy soups, which tend to be overloaded with saturated fats, according to Taub-Dix. Pacific's buttery-tasting option is one exception--it's low in calories, fat, and sodium, and supplies 50 percent of your recommended daily vitamin A intake.
Progresso Traditional Chicken Cheese Enchilada Flavor
170 calories, 11 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 890 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 1 g dietary fiber, 8 g protein
This soup is nothing more than glorified melted cheese. (And what the heck is "enchilada flavor," anyway?) One cup racks up 3.5 g of saturated fat--1.5 g more than is recommended by dietitians--and more than half of your daily sodium allowance.
Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Chicken Noodle Soup
80 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 135 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein
Next time a cold takes hold, ladle a bowl of this comfort-food favorite. (10 Comfort Foods That Won't Pack on the Pounds) Studies show that chicken noodle soup actually does relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of colds. Each serving of Health Valley's variety is low in sodium and has just 80 calories, and also carries some protein and fiber.
Hormel Chili with Beans
260 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1,220 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 7 g dietary fiber, 16 g protein
One can of this popular chili packs nearly enough sodium and saturated fat for two days.
Cooksimple Gluten-Free Cowboy Chili
140 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 300 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 6 g dietary fiber, 7 g protein
This guilt-free chili skips cholesterol, saturated fat, and excessive sodium, while loading your bowl with fiber, iron, and vitamins A and C. What's more, each hearty serving clocks in under 150 calories without skimping on protein.
Lipton Kosher Soup Selects Matzo Ball & Soup Mix
60 calories, 1 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 1,100 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 0 g dietary fiber, 2 protein
Light on calories but heavy on salt, this mix wallops you with 73 percent of your recommended daily sodium intake per individual packet. Plus, it contains virtually no nutrients.
Sunset Fresh Tomato Soup Kit
30 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 50 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g protein
The prep time you devote to mixing this soup from scratch will pay off by saving your heart and waistline from the loads of fat and sodium found in other tomato soups. Even better, the barely-there calorie count will leave you plenty of room for a sandwich or crackers on the side.