GSS: Are You Soup Savvy?

For many of us, canned soup is a staple in our regular diet.  A can of soup is  a comforting, cheap and easy on-the-go lunch or dinner,  and it’s healthy right?  Well, I’m going to find out!

Although many of the major soup companies advertise their health benefits (Light, 30% Less Sodium, Only 2 WW Points, etc.), their nutritional labels tell a different story.  Let’s have a look-see at some of the most popular brands and see how they stack up, shall we?

(As you know, each brand carries several flavors and varieties, so to keep things simple and fair, I’m comparing the basic chicken noodle variety from each company to give you an idea of the ingredients they use, but make sure you always read the labels yourself when buying any canned or packaged item.  And don’t just look at the fat grams and calories…read those ingredient lists people!)

Progresso Traditional Chicken Noodle – Take a look at all those ingredients!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t even recognize some of these words, and there are several things I don’t like, such as several forms of MSG and the modified corn starch.

Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Carrots, Cooked White Chicken Meat, Egg Noodle (Wheat Flour, Semolina Wheat, Egg), Celery, Modified Food Starch, Water, Chicken Fat, Salt, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Egg White, Potassium Chloride, Carrot Puree, Yeast Extract, Sugar, Soy Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Sodium Phosphate, Chives, Natural Flavor, Parsley, Garlic Powder, Egg Yolk, Onion Powder, Spice, Beta Carotene

Sorry Progresso lovers, but I can't give this brand my seal of approval!

Campbell’s Creamy Chicken Noodle – I’m afraid this nutrition label tells an even scarier story!  More MSG and modified starch, with a little corn syrup solids and other words I can’t pronounce thrown in for fun!  

Ingredients: Chicken Stock, Enriched Egg Noodles (Wheat Flour, Eggs, Egg Whites, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin and Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil, Modified Food Starch, Carrots, Cream, Chicken Meat, Salt, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Whey, Monosodium Gluatamate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Chicken Flavor, Corn Syrup Solids, Beta Carotene, Calcium Caseinate, Guar Gum, Yeast Extract, Flavoring, Xanthum Gum, Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Sodium Phosphate, Soy Protein Isolate, Dehydrated Chicken and Chicken Fat.

Campbell's also makes the Chunky and Select Harvest line of soups, so they control the bulk of the soup options found in most stores.

Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle – Different brand, same story!  I just love a little Disodium Inosinate and Guanylate in my soup, don’t you?  I’ve been researching a few of these ingredients that I can’t pronounce, and many of them boil down to MSG (Autolyzed Yeast Extract and Spice for example) and other preservatives or artificial sweeteners.  Are all these chemicals really necessary in a little chicken soup?

Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Carrots, Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Celery, Enriched Egg Noodles (Durum Wheat Flour, Water, Whole Egg Solids, Egg White Solids, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Modified Corn Starch, Flavors, Salt, Maltodextrin, Turkey Broth, Rendered Chicken Fat, Modified Rice Starch, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Isolated Soy Protein, Chicken, Potassium Chloride, Disodium Inosinate and Guanylate, Spice, Sodium Phosphate, Mushroom Powder, Cottonseed Oil, Citric Acid, Turmeric, Beta Carotene.

Turns out it's not so healthy of a choice!

Muir Glen Organic Chicken Noodle – This is the clear winner when it comes to the canned soups I compared.  Just as with the Muir Glen spaghetti sauce, it costs a little more, but it’s worth it when you see that it’s all organic, the chicken is antibiotic and hormone free, it contains real cane juice instead of refined sugar, corn syrup or an artificial sweetener, and it’s MSG free.  You can find it as well as a few other good organic brands in the natural section of your grocery store.

Ingredients: Chicken broth (water, chicken stock, sea salt), carrots, cooked chicken meat, egg noodles, celery, water, sea salt, corn starch, natural chicken flavor, chicken fat, onion powder, soy protein concentrate, egg white powder, onion, black pepper, garlic powder, chives, yeast extract, cane juice, parsley flakes, turmeric, natural flavor, tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, carrot powder, potato flour and canola oil.

Of course this brand is nowhere near as beneficial as making a homemade soup, but at least we can pronounce all of its ingredients!

It’s the perfect time of year for soup, but nothing comes close to the nutrition found in a batch made from scratch.  It takes a little more effort, but wouldn’t it be comforting to know you’re only eating broth, chicken, veggies and maybe a little rice or noodles as opposed to all those harmful ingredients found in the popular canned brands?  You can make up a big batch and freeze it in individual containers so it’s ready to grab for lunch at the office or a quick dinner for kids.  (See my Working Woman Soup and Sweet Potato Chili recipes for some ideas!) For those times when you just don’t have the time for anything except the canned stuff, select the Muir Glen or another organic brand with no MSG.  I’m guessing places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s would have some healthier options as well.

Were you as surprised as I was to see all the crazy ingredients they put in the Progresso, Campbell’s and Healthy Choice soups?  What kind of soup does your family buy?  Do you have a great homemade recipe to share?  I want to hear from you!

3 Comments

Filed under Grocery Store Spotlights

3 responses to “GSS: Are You Soup Savvy?

  1. One of my favorite parts of the fall is eating soup…okay, so I can eat it happily anytime of the year. But in 2010, I made a concerted effort to avoid all of those scary sounding chemicals. When I’m not making my own, I often load up on take-out soups from Souper Jenny or the World Peace Cafe made with real stuff you can pronounce. Thanks for the inside label knowledge today!

  2. Kristi

    What are the other code words for MSG? Anything else to look out for other than Autolyzed Yeast Extract and Spice?

    Thanks!

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