A bowl of soup

The main drawback with bought soups is their salt content. All the products we looked at contained moderate levels of sodium. In our “traffic light” nutrition system they were “orange”: none were really high in sodium, but none were really low.

We also looked at the levels of total fat, saturated fat and sugar in our chosen soups. For a fair comparison we analysed them all on the same per 100ml or 100g basis – but remember the amount of soup you eat determines how much fat, sugar, salt and kilojoules you consume.

Energy

Many soups (especially soups needing to be reconstituted with water) were low in energy – too low to make them a meal in themselves. Ready-to-heat soups in cans and pouches tended to be higher in energy.

A lower-energy soup makes a good snack between meals. But if you're making a meal of it, choose a soup with legumes like lentils and beans for their fibre and protein. For a vitamin and mineral boost, add a generous serving of cooked fresh or frozen vegetables. Enjoy your soup with a grainy bread roll or toast for extra fibre – this will also keep you feeling full for longer.

Several soups were extremely low in energy – and also in nutrients other than sodium. They were little more than salty water.

Fat

Almost all the soups we looked at were low in fat and saturated fat. Out of our 40+ soups, only two just missed out on a "green light" for total fat content. These were the creamy-style chowders: Naked Locals Marlborough Sweetcorn & Basil Chowder and Delmaine Creamy Seafood Chowder.

Sugar

Not surprisingly, most of the soups we looked at were low in sugar. Only a handful had higher levels of sugar: these were Campbell's Condensed Tomato, Maggi Soup for a Cup Creamy Chicken (gluten free) and The Good Taste Co Tomato & Capsicum.

While none of these sugar levels were excessively high, a 300ml serving of The Good Taste Co Tomato & Capsicum soup will add about 4 teaspoons of sugar to your day.

Sodium

All the soups we looked at contained moderate amounts of sodium.

The sodium in salt can be bad for your health. It contributes to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes. The Ministry of Health’s recommended maximum daily limit for adults is 2300mg of sodium – this is what you can consume without an increased risk of high blood pressure. That’s about 6g of salt (or just over a teaspoon of table salt). However, for good health you need only around half this amount: 920mg of sodium a day. You can get this from less than half a teaspoon of fine salt.

King Soup Singles Tomato Minestrone, Pams Onion and Maggi Creamy Potato & Leek were our lower-sodium picks among the sachet soups. Wattie's Very Special Country Vegetable was our pick of the canned options. And when it came to chilled soups, Pitango Organic Thai Pumpkin and Pitango Organic Moroccan Chicken were both good lower-sodium choices.

See Products compared for details of all the soups we looked at.

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