Do healthy soups lack flavor?
Published : Feb 25, 2011 - 16:56
Updated : Feb 25, 2011 - 16:56
Vegetable soup hits the trifecta for a perfect winter meal: It’s hearty, healthful and hot.

And for those without the time or energy for all that chopping and simmering, the canned soup aisle offers an array of effortless options. But are they delicious?

We plucked five veggie soup brands from supermarket shelves and put them to a blind test. Nine tasters rated the soups on look, aroma, texture and, of course, cozy deliciousness.

All of the soups are tomato-based, with carrots, peas, potatoes and celery among the main ingredients. All claimed not to have any added MSG, though there is a small amount of glutamate occurring naturally in yeast extract. All had similar calorie and fat content ― they ranged from 80 to 100 calories and 0 to 1.5 grams of fat per 1-cup serving. Sodium levels varied.
The winning Campbell’s soup, a chunky affair that includes pasta shells, kidney beans,green beans and zucchini, also counted parmesan, cheddar and chicken stock among its ingredients. (Chicago Tribune/MCT)

The tasters arrived on a bone-achingly cold day excited to fill their bellies with comfort food ― but from their groans and grimaces, it became quickly apparent that these soups aren’t so mmm, mmm good.

On a scale of 1 to 9, the highest rated soup turned out to be Campbell’s Select Harvest Minestrone, which pulled in an average score of 5.4. It was followed by Healthy Choice Country Vegetable (4.5) and Homestyle Minestrone (4).

To be fair, the Amy’s soup was “light in sodium,” meaning that its 290 milligrams of sodium per serving is half the salt content in Amy’s regular minestrone soup and less than any of the other soups tasted. Comments denounced the thin broth, mushy vegetables and tastelessness of the soup, calling it “almost offensive,” “like some malevolent machine sucked the flavor out of it.”

Still, high sodium content didn’t directly correlate with a better soup. The two highest scorers each contained 480 milligrams of sodium per serving, compared with 690 milligrams in the third-place Homestyle and 660 milligrams in fourth-place Progresso.

The winning Campbell’s soup, a chunky affair that includes pasta shells, kidney beans, green beans and zucchini, also counted Parmesan and cheddar cheeses and chicken stock among its ingredients. So maybe therein lies the secret to snagging the ringing endorsement that one taster summed up as: “Decent enough.”

1. Campbell’s Select Harvest
(Rating: 5.4; $2.49 for 18.6-ounce can, 13 cents per ounce)
Nutrition: 100 calories, 0.5 g fat, 480 mg sodium
Tasters say: “Potatoes nicely done, tender beans are good.” “Good broth/veg ratio.” “Slightly bland.”

2. Healthy Choice Country Vegetable
(Rating: 4.5; $2.49 for 15-ounce can, 17 cents per ounce)
Nutrition: 100 calories, 0.5 g fat, 480 mg sodium
Tasters say: “Salty but balanced.” “Smoky flavor.” “Kinda boring.”

3. Homestyle Minestrone
(Rating: 4; $1.69 for 19-ounce can, 9 cents per ounce)
Nutrition: 100 calories, 1 g fat, 690 mg sodium
Tasters say: “Best balanced of group.” “Bad chemical flavors and fake herbs.” “Slightly bitter.”

4. Progresso Vegetable Classics
(Rating: 3.1; $2.19 for 19-ounce can, 12 cents per ounce)
Nutrition: 80 calories, 0 g fat, 660 mg sodium
Tasters say: “Tomatoey broth has some flavor, but too sweet.” “Thin flavor, but not awful.” “Floppy pasta.”

5. Amy’s Organic Minestrone
(Rating: 1.8; $3.29 for 14.1-ounce can, 23 cents per ounce)
Nutrition: 90 calories, 1.5 g fat, 290 mg sodium
Tasters say: “Watery.” “Tastes like cardboard.” “Pure mush.”

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz 

(Chicago Tribune)

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)