Trying to minimize trips to the grocery store and make convenient, healthy meals means you’re probably stocking up on canned pantry staples like beans, tuna and veggies. Another great option: canned soup. It’s shelf-stable and takes just a few minutes to heat in the microwave or on a stovetop.
That said, there are a few things to look for when buying canned soup:
“Look for whole foods like chicken, rice, vegetables, beans and whole grains,” says Kylene Bogden, RD. The shorter the ingredient list the better, especially because added sugar can be hidden under a variety of nicknames. Keep an eye out for things like high-fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils. If you recognize and can pronounce the ingredients, that’s ideal. Of course, don’t shy away from herbs and spices, which are great for adding flavor and health benefits, says Bogden.
“Sodium is to be expected, but keep it in check,” Bogden says. She suggests aiming for 400 milligrams per serving or less, which keeps you well under the daily recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams. Look for cans that have “no-salt added,” “less salt” or “low-sodium” on the packaging. If the sodium in the soup is high, consider adding fresh or frozen veggies to cut down on the sodium per serving while increasing the fiber and micronutrient content. In general, it’s also a good idea to keep track of your sodium intake with an app like MyFitnessPal so you can look at the bigger picture.
“Always make sure there are no bulges in your can,” Bogden says. “This can be a huge risk for contamination.” Although small dents might just be due to mishandling, bulges or large dents often mean there are harmful microorganisms growing inside the can. To be safe, only buy cans without dents or bulges. “And if you notice that a bulge or dent has developed as a can sits on your shelf, throw it away,” says Bogden.
If you’re relying heavily on canned foods right now, it’s a good idea to choose BPA-free cans. BPA (aka bisphenol A) is a material used in plastics and for coating the inside of metal cans. It’s possible BPA can seep into food and ingesting it could cause health problems. The good news is you can look for “BPA-free” labels on cans, says Bogden. “Many soups are also now sold in cardboard cartons or glass containers, so opt for those instead, if possible,” she recommends.