"what do you think of canned soups...and is it ok to use recipes that include canned soups like cream of mushroom?”
Would you believe we have over 1,000 recipes on Eat REAL America and none of them include canned soups?!
So, what is the deal with canned soups?
We have not eaten canned soups, or used them as ingredients in cooking, in quite some time because, quite honestly, we find so many of them to be bland and full of undesired ingredients compared to simply using REAL ingredients!
(Does this make us soup snobs?!)
We know it can be tempting to reach for a can of soup...after all, it can be an easy and convenient quick lunch or dinner. And, yes, there are some pretty good canned (or better yet, "boxed") soups out there (most likely much better than grabbing fast food).
- Read those ingredient labels! You know the drill, check the ingredient list for... a short list of recognizable, pronounceable, REAL ingredients, and with REAL vegetables in the starring role!
- Watch the sodium! For preservation and to enhance flavor, canned soups can be VERY high in sodium, which is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Even if we don't have health concerns, it is still important to be conscious about sodium levels. It is recommended we have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (and less for those with high blood pressure). It is shocking that 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods or prepared foods, not the salt we add in cooking or at the table! So, when choosing canned soups, it's best to look for one that has less than 400 mg of sodium. Here is the challenge…lots of canned soups have MUCH, MUCH MORE. For example, a can of Campbell's Condensed Vegetable Minestrone has 650 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup serving. But wait! There are 2.5 servings in one can. Honestly, who is satisfied by eating only part of the can for one meal? That means the whole can has 1,625 mg of sodium - almost an entire day's worth! As a comparison, our Very Veggie Minestrone on Eat REAL America has 365 mg per serving.
- Restaurant soups can be deceiving! An Eat REAL America member told us she was obsessed with Panera's Autumn Squash Soup. She said she knew it probably wasn't as healthy as it could be, but she loved it. A few weeks later, we included our Butternut Squash and Apple Soup in a cooking demo for her company. The verdict? She said "WOW - this tastes even better than the Panera version!", and she loved that it was so much healthier, especially being so much lower in sodium (230 mg vs. 1,210 mg in the Panera version). Another example of the many benefits of making your own!
- Beware of MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)! You have probably heard the term "msg free." This ingredient is added to enhance flavor but has also been thought to damage cells in the nervous system and have other health effects. Sadly, this ingredient is still present in a lot of canned soups, including the Campbell's Vegetable Minestrone mentioned above.
- Look for bisphenol-A (BPA) free! BPA is a chemical used as the protective lining on the inside of cans. Risk exists that it can be released into the soup during and after processing. There are increasing data points showing that, at elevated levels, BPA can contribute to developmental issues, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among others. Canned soups can have a higher amount of BPA because they can't be rinsed like beans or canned vegetables. Some companies are responding to this issue by repackaging their soups, and boxed soups are good replacements.
- Skip canned creamy soups if you can! There are several ways to make soups creamy without the additives, preservatives and adding a lot of heavy cream. Our Mushroom and Barley Soup adds nonfat Greek yogurt at the end to create the "creaminess.” You can also get a creamy texture by using starchy vegetables and pureeing them to thicken the soup — this is where an immersion blender comes in very handy! Our Quinoa Corn Chowder uses a sweet potato and is partially blended, creating a creaminess without any cream at all. Some other great-tasting creamy soups made with REAL ingredients include: Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Stew, Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons, Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Spicy Sweet Potato Soup, Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup and Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.
What about recipes that call for canned cream soups…the cans of cream of (fill in the blank)?
If you have a “it’s been in my family for years” favorite recipe that calls for ingredients such as Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken Soup, consider kicking the can to the curb and making your own. Your homemade version will have much less sodium and will be free of questionable ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), plus it will taste so much better!
You can freeze it in portions to use in recipes later -- this tip can be especially handy for those holiday recipes!
The bottom line?
If you consume fresh, REAL ingredients, these health risks can be easily avoided, your meals will taste 100 times better, and you can even save some money in the process!
Homemade has huge benefits:
- You control EXACTLY what ingredients are going into your meals! And you can use significantly higher quality ingredients than those used by the food manufacturers.
- The taste will be SIGNIFICANTLY better. Keep in mind, most homemade soups taste even better the next day. For soups that call for broth or stock, homemade broths and stocks will noticeably improve the flavor.
- You will save money vs. buying off-the-shelf!
- Many soups can be prepared in large batches, and then easily frozen to enjoy later. Thawing and reheating a pre-made soup can make those busy weeknight meals so much easier. Here are a few great ideas to enjoy: Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup, Autumn Minestrone, Italian Turkey Burger Soup, and Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili.
- The slow cooker can be an ideal time saver when it comes to making soup. Just throw the ingredients in and let the slow cooker do the work!
We have you covered with LOTS of homemade soup ideas, and many of these are ideal for the slow cooker!
If you don't already, try making homemade soups part of your routine -- REAL ingredients will significantly enhance the flavor and texture...you just might realize you don't need those canned soups at all!