There’s nothing better than a bowl of hot, steaming soup as the weather turns cold.
But what’s the healthiest variety – tinned, packet or refrigerated?
We take a look at tomato soup, the UK’s favourite, to tell you everything you need to know about hidden sugars, salt and saturated fat.
Why not try making your own with a Best Buy soup maker?
Keep an eye on sugar as well as salt
Tomato soup is, of course, a savoury dish and we’re often warned about the salt it contains. However, sugar can be a concern, too.
Tomatoes naturally contain sugar – 100g of tomatoes contains around 2g. Not only that, but sugar is sometimes added during the manufacturing process to counteract the tomatoes’ natural acidity.
Some shop-bought soups are definitely more sugary than others and this isn’t confined to the ambient (shelf stable) types – some fresh supermarket ones are sugary, too.
- Asda Cream of Tomato soup contains 6.1g of sugars per 100g – 12g of sugars per half can serving
- Morrisons Tomato & Basil soup has 4.4g of sugars per 100g – 13.2g of sugars per half pot serving
- Aldi’s Bramwells Soup In a Cup has 2.9g of sugars per 100g – equivalent to 7.3g of sugars per sachet
Watch out for tomato soup with ‘hidden’ sugars
Some soups contain sugar by another name, so you might not even know that it’s there.
New Covent Garden Tomato & Basil soup contains ‘carob fruit syrup’, which consists of carob extract, apple extract and grape extract.
It might sound healthy, but don’t be deceived – it’s still sugar and counts towards your maximum recommended intake.
M&S Tomato Soup In a Cup contains both sugar and dried glucose syrup.
Tomato soup with artificial sweeteners
Some soups contain artificial sweeteners – for example, Weight Watchers Tomato Soup is sweetened with acesulfame potassium.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking this means it’s sugar-free: the ingredients list says it also contains added sugar. In fact, consuming one 295g can (equivalent to a serving) provides you with 8.2g of sugar.
For a tinned tomato soup that truly has no sugar added, Heinz No Added Sugar Cream of Tomato soup contains the plant-derived sweetener steviol glycosides (stevia) and zero added sugar.
In this instance, don’t be shocked by the 5.3g of sugar in a serving (half a can) – none of this is added sugar and this is merely evidence of how naturally sweet tomatoes can be.
We say Check the portion size information on the label to see how much sugar you’re getting per serving, but also be aware that some of this will be sugar from the tomatoes.
The higher up sugar is on the ingredients list, the more abundant your soup is in added sugars, which count as free sugar. Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars per day.
Want to cut down on sugar? Find out how to root out sugar in everyday food
Not all vegetable-based soups are suitable for vegans
You may assume that if the key ingredient in the soup you’re buying is a vegetable (such as tomato or potato) then it’s probably vegan – but not necessarily.
If it says ‘cream of’ that means it has cream in it, making it suitable for vegetarians but not vegans.
Make sure you read the label carefully before putting it in your shopping basket if you’re catering for vegans.
Brands such as Tesco sell a refrigerated Tomato & Basil as well as a Cream of Tomato & Basil, and the labels look very similar, so check you’ve picked the correct one.
We say If you want to be certain, look for the Vegetarian Society vegan logo, or choose from ‘plant-based’ ranges such Tesco’s Plant Chef or Baxters Plant Based.
Tinned soup can be as healthy as refrigerated
It may be assumed that because of their short ‘use by’ dates, soups kept in the refrigerated section of the supermarket are going to be better for you than tinned varieties. But this isn’t necessarily the case.
Some nutrients, such as vitamin C and B vitamins, get destroyed during the tinning process, where heat is used to kill harmful bacteria for longer product shelf life.
However, other nutrients benefit from this heating process – for example, when you cook spinach, kale, asparagus and mushrooms, their antioxidant levels are boosted compared with eating them raw.
Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to be better absorbed by humans when it’s been heated, as is the case with shop-bought refrigerated tomato soup and with tinned tomato soup, too.
Not only that, but some tinned soups have lower saturated fat levels than fresh ones (eg Tesco Low Fat Tomato Soup has less than 0.1g per serving compared with the 0.5g per serving of New Covent Garden Slow Roast Tomato soup).
Remember, too, that if you’re looking at your five a day, tomato soup generally counts, even if it’s canned (Heinz says a serving of its tomato soup counts as one of your five). Check the label on the pack for confirmation.
We say Tinned soup can be a convenient way to add to your five a day. If you want extra nutrients in your tomato soup (including fibre), choose varieties with lentils, pulses or vegetables too.
Frozen and tinned fruit and veg: can they be better than their fresh alternatives?
Tinned, cuppa or refrigerated tomato soup compared
We’ve taken a look at some popular tomato soups available in shops and online to see what you get, nutritionally speaking.
In this table, we’ve compared popular tomato soups per 100g, so you can see how they fare against each other in terms of calories, sugar, salt and fat (including saturates).
What we found There isn’t such a thing as the ‘perfect’ shop-bought soup. It very much depends on what you’re looking for.
For example, while the Baxters Vegetarian Mediterranean Tomato soup had the lowest fat of the soups we looked at, it’s also one of the highest for salt (0.63g per 100g or 2.54g per portion). However, the serving size is a bumper 400g – a whole tin – rather than the standard 300g.
We say Follow the traffic light system on the packet, which will tell you whether your soup is high, medium or low in sugar, fat, saturated fat, and salt how much of these you’re getting per recommended portion.
This will enable you to keep an eye on the nutritional factors that matter most to you (for example, low salt if you’re concerned about your blood pressure, low sugar if you’re diabetic or low calorie if you’re watching your weight).
Popular supermarket soups compared
|Type||Calories (per 100g)||Sugars (per 100g)||Salt (per 100g)||Fat/Saturated fat (per 100g)|
|Heinz Cream of Tomato||Tinned||51||4.8g||0.5g||2.1g/0.2g|
|Asda Cream of Tomato||Tinned||60||6.1g||0.47g||2.8g/0.2g|
|Heinz Weight Watchers Tomato||Tinned||26||2.8g||0.6g||0.5g/trace|
|Tesco Low Fat Tomato||Tinned||31||3.9g||0.3g||0.4g/less than 0.1g|
|Baxters Vegetarian Mediterranean Tomato||Tinned||32||3g||0.63g||0.2g/less than 0.1g|
|Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself Tomato||Tinned||42||4.2g||0.53g||1.3g/0.1g|
|Morrisons Tomato & Basil||Refrigerated||43||4.4g||0.42g||1.6g/0.1g|
|New Covent Garden Tomato & Basil||Refrigerated||40||4.4g||0.4g||1.6g/0.5g|
|Sainsbury’s Tomato & Basil||Refrigerated||37||4.1g||0.5g||1.4g/0.6g|
|Batchelors Cup a Soup Tomato||Packet||41||3.9g||0.5g||2.3g/0.2g|
|M&S Tomato Soup In a Cup||Packet||38||3.6g||0.40g||0.7g/0.4g|
|Bramwells Tomato Soup In a Cup (Aldi)||Packet||33||2.9g||0.46g||0.7g/0.4g|