When chilly weather — or, depending on where you live, slightly colder weather — sets in, there is little better than a big bowl of hearty, homemade soup. But even the most enthusiastic home cooks get strapped for time: It’s not always realistic to make soups and stews from scratch.
Thankfully, store-bought soups have come a long way since the early days of canned chicken noodle (which, by the way, we also love). Check any grocery store shelf these days and you’ll find a vast canned soup world, from global recipes to a wide variety of ingredients. With meaty, vegetarian-friendly, creamy, chunky, and flavorful options that taste almost as good as homemade, we wondered: Are there any store-bought soups that earn high marks for nutrition, too?
You bet, says Jamie Vespa, a registered dietitian and recipe developer based in Denver, Colorado. Although Vespa offers plenty of DIY soups on her website (like this Creamy Tuscan Gnocchi Soup), there is one store-bought soup that’s almost always in her grocery cart. And yep, it passes with flying colors in both the “tastes good” and “good for you” categories.
Meet the Winner: Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Vespa’s favorite store-bought soup is Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. She describes it as “bright and zesty,” and praises its “velvety smooth” consistency. As a veggies-forward cook herself, she appreciates that the ingredient list is relatively short and stacked with produce — all of which is certified organic.
This option is a smart choice for cooks on a budget, as well. A 32-ounce carton costs just $3.49. Dress it up with some filling DIY additions (more on that in a moment), and this hardworking puréed soup can definitely be made into a meal for two to four people.
What a Registered Dietitian Loves About This Soup (Beyond its Flavor)
Although this soup can be simply heated and eaten (Vespa says it’s “mighty tasty” on its own), she prefers to add a few key ingredients for flavor and a nutritional boost. “Since it’s a pretty low-calorie soup with negligible fat and protein,” Vespa says she likes to bulk it up with satiating additions like a scoop of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt in the bowl just before serving for added protein and fat. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast, a few grinds of black pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil step up to the plate (or rather, bowl) when it comes to flavor. Like all tomato soup options, Vespa notes, this Trader Joe’s version pairs well with a grilled cheese sandwich.
Vespa also shares a few nutritional tips when shopping for store-bought soups. “Look for ones that have a decent punch of proteins and fiber,” she says, adding that lentils and beans as the main ingredient are a sign you’re on the right track. What about sodium? Premade soups are notoriously salty, and Vespa cautions against ones that list salt in the first few ingredients. That goes for sugar, too. As a heads-up for folks with dietary restrictions: The TJ’s Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup does contain nonfat milk and milk powder.
Can’t get to a Trader Joe’s or don’t eat dairy? No problem: Vespa says that Amy’s soups are healthy, protein-rich, and satisfying soups she’d happily heat and eat any day of the week.