As the weather gets even colder, almost nothing beats a bowl of hot soup — and more of us are turning to the ready-made variety.
In the year up to January 2017, we spent more than £132 million on supermarket soups, up 68 per cent compared with ten years ago.
Apart from warming you up, studies by the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. have shown soup can promote feelings of fullness and, when eaten as a snack, may curb hunger longer than solid food with the same nutritional composition. One theory is that the viscous nature of soup makes it stay in the stomach longer.
But not every bowl of ready-made is virtuous — some are high in salt and others high in calories and saturated fat.
Here, registered dietitian Helen Bond assessed ten popular supermarket soups — we then rated them.
Sainsbury’s carrot and coriander
Sainsbury’s carrot and coriander: This version of a classic is very low in calories
Per 100g: Calories, 29; saturated fat, 0.3g; sugar, 2.6g; fibre, 1.2g; protein, 1g; salt, 0.4g
VERDICT: This version of a classic is very low in calories, but always check labels as it is sometimes made with cream so will be more calorific. A 300g bowl will count as one of your five-a-day and gives you more than your daily vitamin A requirement — important for the immune system and healthy skin and eyes. A bowl also has about a fifth of your daily vitamin B1, vital for the nervous system.
As it’s quite low calorie, serve with a tuna or chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread for a filling and balanced lunch.
TASTE: Thickish, like a runny carrot puree; hint of spice. 9/10
Cully & Sully chicken & vegetable
400g, £1.50, Tesco. Per 100g: Calories, 55; saturated fat, 2.2g; sugar, 2.2g; fibre, 1.8g; protein, 2.5g; salt, 0.9g
VERDICT: Made with carrots, onions and leeks, a 400g serving counts as one of your five-a-day and provides a quarter of your daily fibre.
But it’s only 4 per cent chicken so a bowlful provides just 10g of protein — ideally at lunch you’d have 15 to 20g to feel full.
Cully & Sully chicken & vegetable: Made with carrots, onions and leeks, a 400g serving counts as one of your five-a-day and provides a quarter of your daily fibre
You can reach this protein target by adding two slices of wholemeal bread. However, this soup isn’t as healthy as you’d think: a serving also provides 44 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit (from cream and butter), and 60 per cent of your daily salt, so this should not be an everyday choice.
TASTE: Surprisingly creamy with the odd bit of chicken. Carrot is the main flavour. 3/10
New Covent Garden Slow roast tomato
New Covent Garden Slow roast tomato: A great way to get a burst of lycopene — the red, antioxidant chemical in tomatoes linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer
700g, £2.35, most supermarkets. Per 100g: Calories, 28; saturated fat, 0.1g; sugar, 4.2g; fibre, 1.5g; protein, 0.9g; salt, 0.35g
VERDICT: A great way to get a burst of lycopene — the red, antioxidant chemical in tomatoes linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Processing tomatoes breaks down the cell structure and increases the amount of lycopene available for our body to absorb. A bowl will count as one of your five-a-day. There’s some added sugar, but it’s just over half a teaspoon per bowl which is OK. As it’s so low in calories you can afford to add a slice of baguette with melted cheese, which will add protein and bone-building calcium.
TASTE: Nice, rich tomato flavour and not too acidic. 7/10
Sainsbury’s chicken arrabbiata meal soup
Sainsbury’s chicken arrabbiata meal soup
400g, £1.80. Per 100g: Calories, 52; saturated fat, 0.3g; sugar, 3.8g; fibre, 2g; protein, 3.6g; salt, 0.48g
VERDICT: With chicken and pasta as well as large chunks of veg, this is full-bodied and closer to a casserole than a soup — and just over 200 calories per bowl.
It provides more than a quarter of the daily requirement of protein and fibre, but the major downside is its salt content — there’s nearly a third of your daily limit per pot.
TASTE: Robust tomato flavour with subtle chilli heat. 5/10
Bol smokey tomato and lentil
500g, £2.50, Tesco. Per 100g: Calories, 63; saturated fat, 0.1g; sugar, 1g; fibre, 5.1g; protein, 4.2g; salt, 0.19g
VERDICT: Made with lentils, tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn and beans, unlike many soups this is an excellent source of protein and provides more than three quarters of our daily fibre needs, which is good for the digestive system.
It also provides three of your five-a-day. With 315 calories this seems quite high for a soup but the serving size is bigger than most so you won’t need anything else for lunch. The lentils and beans will fill you up making you less likely to snack, so it’s good for those watching their weight.
TASTE: Mild and smoky, with sweet chunks of red pepper. 9/10
Bol smokey tomato and lentil: Made with lentils, tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn and beans, unlike many soups this is an excellent source of protein
Tesco Finest cream of mushroom
600g, £2.50. Per 100g: Calories, 79; saturated fat, 3.4g; sugar, 1.4g; fibre, 0.5g; protein, 1.9g; salt, 0.5g
VERDICT: This velvety soup is 23 per cent mushroom, but a bowlful doesn’t count as one of your five-a-day — to count as one portion, you need at least 28 per cent veg.
A serving also has 10.2g of saturated fat — that’s around half your daily limit — from the double cream, so this is not an everyday option. The salt content is modest, but the fibre content is low compared with most soups.
TASTE: Rich, decadent and very mushroomy. 1/10
Glorious Super Greens primavera
600g, £2.30, most supermarkets. Per 100g: Calories, 47; saturated fat, 0.2g; sugar, 1.4g; fibre, 3.5g; protein, 2.7g; salt, 0.18g
Tesco Finest cream of mushroom: This velvety soup is 23 per cent mushroom, but a bowlful doesn’t count as one of your five-a-day — to count as one portion, you need at least 28 per cent veg. Glorious Super Greens primavera: 10/10
VERDICT: Made with peas, leeks and broad beans, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa, a bowl of this will help top up your iron from the peas, beans and spinach. It’s also a good source of fibre, providing a third of the daily recommended amount, while being low in fat and salt.
A bowl provides more protein than a boiled egg — served with wholegrain crusty bread and a small slice of cheese, it’s an almost perfect light lunch.
TASTE: Mostly pea and subtle mint. Fresh and tasty. 10/10
Tesco butternut squash
Tesco butternut squash: A serving provides a decent amount of vitamin A and is low in calories and saturated fat
600g, £1.50. Per 100g: Calories, 27; saturated fat, 0.1g; sugar, 2.5g; fibre, 1.5g; protein, 0.4g; salt, 0.4g
VERDICT: A serving provides a decent amount of vitamin A and is low in calories and saturated fat.
Its label is ‘amber’ for salt, under the traffic light food warning system — so possibly avoid if you are trying to lower your blood pressure. (We’re meant to eat foods with mostly ‘green lights’: low in salt, saturated fat and sugar, but some ambers are fine.)
Serve with a small chicken salad or sandwich to boost protein and fibre for a filling lunch. It would be ideal as a starter as it’s particularly slimline but will help curb further eating: studies have shown that when people eat soup first they eat less main course, which is often more calorific.
TASTE: Smooth, sweetish, hint of peppery heat. 5/10
New Covent Garden classic chicken
£2.50 for 700g, most supermarkets. Per 100g: Calories, 69; saturated fat, 1.8g; sugar, 1.1g; fibre 0.5g; protein, 3g; salt, 0.49g
New Covent Garden classic chicken: Chicken soup is a traditional remedy for colds but a soup with carrots would be better to boost the immune system with more vitamin A
VERDICT: With just 6 per cent chicken, one serving (350g) has 6 per cent of our recommended amount of appetite-curbing protein — twice that in Heinz cream of chicken — to add to the filling qualities of this already satisfyingly creamy soup.
However, thanks to the cream, a 300g bowl provides 32 per cent of your daily saturated fat and 28 per cent of your daily salt. Chicken soup is a traditional remedy for colds but a soup with carrots would be better to boost the immune system with more vitamin A.
Asda Slimzone winter broth: Low in calories
TASTE: Creamily comforting. 4/10
Asda Slimzone winter broth
600g, £1.50. Per 100g: Calories, 32; saturated fat, trace; sugar, 1.2g; fibre, 1.4g; protein, 1.5g; salt, 0.26g
VERDICT: Low in calories, salt and saturated fat, this is made with root vegetables such as potatoes, leeks, celeriac and parsnips, so also provides a good amount of potassium — important for healthy blood pressure. A bowl counts as one of your five-a-day, too. Another soup that could do with added protein and fibre, so eat with a hummus and wholegrain pitta to make it a more balanced and filling lunch.
TASTE: Overly-firm veg chunks; needs a crack of black pepper to make it less bland. 8/10