Nutrition Notes: Canned Soups

January 17, 2014

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In a perfect world we would all make soup from scratch and freeze the leftovers in containers to reheat on a chilly winter day. We love soup in our house and we often do have reserves in the freezer ready for eating.

But frozen soup can take a while to thaw in a hot minute, and I eat it faster than I can make it!

Enter: canned + boxed soups.

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Navigating the soup aisle can feel like an ingredient list hail storm. What can you trust as real food and what looks suspicious? The above photo was taken in Whole Foods where just about any soup you pick up will be made from real food. In a more traditional grocery store that job is a bit trickier. See this post I wrote on navigating ingredient lists.

It’s no surprise that all soups are not created equal. The Campbells ingredient list below has a handful of ingredients I wouldn’t put in my own soup recipe not to mention the beef in there is probably not organic. Looking at the Pacific brand, you can identify every ingredient on the list as a kitchen ingredient.

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In addition to a simple ingredient list, look for soups that are high in fiber and protein, made with organic ingredients (particularly for meat-based soups) and lower in sodium, if you can find them.

Here are a few of the flavors I’ve kept on hand this winter.

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Pacific Vegetable Lentil + Roasted Red Pepper – Reduced Sodium

This guy is packed with vegetarian goodness – veggies, lentils, black beans and spices. If I have a choice I’ll pick the reduced sodium versions because I can always add back a pinch of salt if I need more flavor (I rarely do except in very low sodium versions). As you can see, this one still packs in quite a bit. This is the soup the magazines tell you to have with a crusty roll for a “balanced lunch.” :  )

Per cup: 150 calories, 0.5 gram fat, 7 grams fiber, 8 grams protein, 490mg sodium

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Pacific Organic Split Pea & Uncured Ham Soup

Love that this one is organic and made with uncured ham. I’m not too concerned with a single dose of a high sodium food like a regular soup, but if you can find the reduced sodium options, go for it.

Per cup: 160 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 10 grams fiber, 11 grams protein, 590mg sodium

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Imagine Organic Tomato Bisque

I LOVE this tomato soup!! Perfect with grilled cheese. Years ago the chunks would have bothered me, but now I love the extra texture. This guy has just the right amount of cream to taste gourmet. This soup has less fiber + protein than the others, so it’s not quite as hearty. Hence the grilled cheese pairing. I’m surprised this box claims to be 25% less sodium yet still packs in 630mg!

Per cup: 90 calories, 3 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein, 630mg sodium

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365 Organic Chicken Chili

Of course homemade is best, but I was very impressed with the flavor packed into this can. Doctored up with some avocado and Greek yogurt, it made for a wonderful lunch! It’s the heartiest of the bunch for protein as well. I wouldn’t have bought it if the chicken were not organic.

Per cup: 260 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams fiber, 16 grams protein, 600mg sodium

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Whole Foods has a ton of store brand options, and while I haven’t looked at the ingredient list for all of them, I’m fairly confident they all have simple ingredient lists.

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Happy slurping!

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie January 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Soup would be prefect today! I want to try the tomato!

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2 Candice January 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This is a great post and perfect timing too!!

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3 Sarah January 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I think it’s worth noting that ingredients like “natural flavor”, “spices” can contain hidden forms of MSG… even in organic foods. That’s important to me because I am sensitive to it, just call me the Human MSG Detector! I’ll get an aura migraine and stroke-like symptoms from even the slightest variation.

Prepared soups are a minefield of hidden MSG. I never thought simple soup would be so scary until I started getting these awful neurological disturbances! I will never eat anything Campbell’s, since MSG seems to be a staple for them. But I would also not eat the Pacific Butternut soup you mention at the top because it contains “natural flavor” which is likely to be yeast extract, a form of MSG.

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4 Maria January 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

Not that many people are aware that the word “natural” is a major red flag on any “food” product. Since you have readers who respect your credentials, you owe it to them not to be so concerned about your personal finances and the people who send you free things to promote. Instead, why don’t you do a column on “natural,” and “organic,” and list the things that are allowed. (Organic isn’t that bad, but a surprising number of concessions have been made to organic producers as well.)

Am surprised to find that this site isn’t more sensitive to the fact that many people respond negatively to overprocessed and questionable ingredients. Instead, you promote things that are “natural.” I know you monitor comments. It would be helpful if, from time to time, you would include responses to those like me, who question your choices. The excessive drinking and references to alcohol, and your continued promotion of “natural” is a concern. (A winery that has a place for children, even babies? Parents who are both drinking in the afternoon? What is that child learning about the example you and your husband are setting for him?)

Finally, A QUESTION: A food scientist told me that buying food that does not list preservatives DOES NOT mean that there are no preservatives in the food. The item we were discussing was bread. He said that the company can spray the inside of the bag with preservatives, which will get ON THE BREAD, but they do not have to list it as an ingredient. Do you know if this is true? If yes, how many “food” companies use this method to get preservatives ON the product? ***All you have to do is look at the shelf life of some products to know that some sort of preserving is going on.***

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5 KathEats January 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

None of these soups were sent to me. I bought them all. This post is supposed to be helpful to readers. I’m damned if I do and damned if I dont with just about every post I write it seems so I’m staying true to myself.

And I guess it’s good that I promote Great Harvest bread…no preservatives there.

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6 Amanda January 18, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I feel for you sometimes Kath (and all bloggers for that matter who put themselves out there). You’re so right…it seems you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think you’ve always remained true to yourself. People should just take what they want from the posts you put out and if they don’t agree then it’s easy to move on. I look forward to what you post…whether it’s snapshots of food and weekend activities to more in-depth nutrition posts. And maybe a post doesn’t speak to me on a particular day, but I still enjoy reading them. Our choices are personal ones. Why people feel the need to judge what you put out there is sometimes baffling to me. I usually just gloss over those comments but today felt the need to speak up. Just my two cents. :-)

It’s nice to have a can or box of soup in the pantry for a spur of the moment meal! I’ll have to try the tomato bisque!

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7 Christine January 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

The fact is that many of these soups can be found in a traditional grocery store (gasp!). Just bc a food item is not in WF does not make it automatically reject.

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8 Vive la France January 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Just a note on the wineries. If you ever travel though two of the most beautiful countries in the entire world, if you happen to stroll along the streets of their ancient towns and villages you’ll be surprised (and pleased) to find many and more wineries on your way.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to lunch or dinner by any of their inhabitants you will have the pleasure of sipping a couple of glasses of white/rosé/red delicious nectar while enjoying delicious food.

This is part of my childhood memories when I used to rally across Italy and France with my family.
I got no traumas, only healthy and sound knowledge of how one has to enjoy wine (and beer).

Cheers!

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9 Shana January 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Cheers to that!

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10 Jen January 18, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Maria: I’m not a food scientist (yet) but I do work for a major food company in designing food and I work pretty closely with labeling for ingredients. I’m thinking if a bread company would do that, the amount that they would spray inside the bags would be a very small trace amount. In some labeling, depending on the amount in a product it doesn’t need to be disclosed. OR they could call the preservative something else that the majority of people may not be familiar with and it could be easily overlooked. For example, everyone pretty much knows about MSG but they may not know that there are ingredients that are incredibly close to MSG (only small minor differences chemically) and they call it something different on labels that people aren’t familiar with.

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11 Maria January 19, 2014 at 9:58 am

Question: Even if it is a trace amount, how many “trace amounts” are we getting in one day from various foods? As you mention, many times disclosure is not required.

Interesting technique to alter the composition of MSG so they could give it a new name and fool a lot of people. I knew that they counted on emotional responses to the pictures and words, but I didn’t really consider this type of manipulation.

Appreciate the heads up. I will watch the ingredient lists more carefully in the future.

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12 Jen January 24, 2014 at 10:28 am

Most of the ingredients I work with are being used in very small amounts, for example an ingredient may be only 1-5% of the total product and then inside one of those ingredients there may be trace amounts of something else that won’t be listed on the label.

Feel free to email me if you have any other questions and I could try to answer them for you :) foodintent at gmail.com

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13 beth January 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Maria, you have got to be kidding me?!?! “Parents that are both drinking in the afternoon”. You act as if they were doing keg stands. Do you know how many families go wine tasting in this country and others AND in the daytime?!? And GASP, “preservatives ON THE BREAD” via transfer from the bag. I guess you don’t breathe the same air as the rest of us, because darling you can’t avoid everything. Give Kath, and the readers, a break with your judgement.

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14 Edamommy January 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I would caution anyone who is trying to eat healthy to avoid any processed foods that contain “natural flavors” and “organic flavors”, including several of the soups mentioned here. Remember, just because an item is sold at Whole Foods or is made by an “organic” company doesn’t mean it’s good for you!

Natural flavors can legally include MSG, bugs, beaver butt, non-organic ingredients and lots of unmarked chemicals and allergens. Buyer beware!

http://blog.bobsredmill.com/featured-articles/natural-flavors-partially-demystified/
http://foodidentitytheft.com/%E2%80%9Cnatural%E2%80%9D-can-run-the-gamut-from-bugs-to-beaver-butts/

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15 Ashley January 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Great point! Alton Brown put very few foods on his “NEVER eat!” list, but all canned and boxed soups were on that list, as were “Diet” products (something I’m still guilty of!) Luckily, wine wasn’t- clearly he’s a level-headed guy :)

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16 Mandy January 18, 2014 at 9:16 am

Yes! I was VERY surprised to see Kath writing that “natural flavor” is an ingredient that you can “identify… as a kitchen ingredient.” Seems very much to go against her entire real food philosophy.

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17 KathEats January 18, 2014 at 10:30 am

It’s part of my “you have to be realistic and draw the line somewhere” mentality.

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18 Bob T January 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

This is a good post despite some negative comments. We all know that home made soup is best. I applaud those folks who have the time and resources to prepare their own meals using the highest quality free range meats and organic produce raised/grown close to home. Those of us who cannot must “be realistic and draw the line somewhere.”

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19 Lisa @bitesforbabies January 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Great post…I am ALL about soup right now with this crazy cold weather!

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20 Sally January 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I love soup, especially this time of year, but unless it’s homemade, I rarely eat it. I don’t know if I am extra-sensitive to sodium or what, but anytime I eat canned (or boxed!) soup, I get awful headaches and feel bloated right away. I may try a couple of the lower-sodium options you posted, although they all still seem to contain a ridiculous amount of sodium. I wish homemade soup wasn’t so time-consuming! :)

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21 Hannah @ eat, drink and save money January 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Thanks Kath! I have always had a hard time picking up soups at the store. I’m never sure about the best options. I love the idea of boxed soups. I’m def going to check this out!

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22 Kimberly January 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Canned soup does make for a convenient lunch! Just wondering why it is important for the soup to be organic when you’ve promoted a lot of other non-organic foods on your site (You said you wouldn’t have bought the chicken one if it wasn’t organic). As an RD, do you feel like it’s more important to get some foods organic that others (assuming your budget doesn’t allow for all organic food)?

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23 KathEats January 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I absolutely feel it’s important to eat organic meat (although you can’t always know – like in a restaurant). I’m much less strict with veggies, but if I have an easy choice like this I’ll choose the organic one

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24 Jenny January 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I’ve heard other people say this, too, and I’ve never quite understood why it’s more important to choose organic meat/dairy over organic veggies/fruit.Can you explain why or point me to a resource would be helpful? Thanks!

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25 KathEats January 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm

I’m hoping that organic holds stricter standards for the animals’ well being. It might not be ideal, but it’s better than totally conventional

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26 Kate January 17, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Unfortunately, the “Organic” label means nothing when it comes to the treatment of the animals, it really only pertains to the type of feed and medications the animal receives. The chickens in a mass-produced product, such as 365 brand, may have received organic feed, but there is no control over their living conditions, and most “organic” meat is slaughtered and processed in the same plants as non-organic.

Your best bet for humane meat (organic or not) will be from a local source where you can witness the conditions under which the animals are kept yourself.

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27 KathEats January 18, 2014 at 6:41 am

It’s a shame that this isn’t a bigger part of the label but like I said it’s a step in the right direction. Agreed that local is best or at least a brand advertised as pastured.

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28 Kat January 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Yes as a dairy vet- the organic dairies I work for have pretty bad welfare standards. Because antibiotics cannot be used to treat things like mastitis or simple skin infections the poor animals have to suffer through it and are usually just sold for “organic beef.” I personally buy conventional milk products because I personally know these dairy animals are so much more healthier. These animals also have to be on pasture for a certain percentage of their life but currently in CA there is a drought and there is NO grass out there for these poor cows to eat. It’s hard for them to produce milk without energy so they are rail thin and practically starving. Furthermore a lot of conventional dairies that have failed welfare tests go onto become organic dairies because they don’t have to do as much as far as welfare.

Sad that few people are educated about these things

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29 KathEats January 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm

that is really sad to hear. Thanks for your first hand account. I’m glad I have a fair amount of pastured options here in Charlottesville

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30 Kristen January 21, 2014 at 7:30 am

Ive read your blog for a while and I like the ideas and recipes you post. However it makes me sad, as a person who works in animal agriculture, that you and other posters here brush off things like what Kat said with a “well its a step in the right direction” or ” at least its better than conventional”. For people who seem so educated about nutrition and socially aware, you all see very, very naive about the truth about organic and “pasture/gress fed” animal agricutlure. I for one work in the industry will tell you I care about he welfare of animals and will buy local but REFUSE to buy organic.

People want to whole heartedly believe that organic = humane and pasture = happy animals but you need to really understand what is going on and what is actually best for the animals. But most people dotn want to accept that there are organic factory farms and that organic standards say nothing about the way an animal is treated and even more so, sometimes those practices used in organic farming are inhumane!

How is it humane to not treat an animal with say mastitis (common and easy to treat)? In convential farming,the animal would be treated with meds, her milk dumped and then returned to the milking herd when her SCC back down to normal. In organic farming, as Kat said, the animal is not treated or is shipped for dairy beef. Pastured and grass fed dairy in my mind is NOT humane. You know how you need to eat more to maintain weight during lacation? Its even worse in dairy cows who pretty much cant eat enough during peak lacation to maintain body weight. And thats on an energy dense TMR (ration with grain and forage). Now forages like grass are low energy density and there is only so much a cow can physically eat so if you toss them out on pasture, they have an even harder time eating enough calories and this last longer and they lose body weight. Not good for the animal.

Check out your free range chicken too. Study after study shows that morbidity and mortality are significantly higher in free range than birds housed in cages. Mean these animals get sicker and are less healthy (reflected by lower gains etc). The Australiac PRF has done tons of work on free ranges birds and showed that its just not this “happy chicken” picture everyone wants to believe. But again, its marketing to the ignorance of the consumer about animal agriculture. Another little secret-chicken and eggs are marketed at places like WF and TJs as hormone free-poultry producers dont use hormones, so all chicken is hormone (well other than endogenous) free.

I really hope you and your reads think about what Kat and I both said and start to think a bit differently about organic and pasture and focus more on humane. I think peole really need to think about why they are buy organic etc.-is it because you want a product from an animal that was raise without things like hormones or drugs for your own food safety? or do you want a product that comes from conditions in which the animal was raised in a humane manner even if that means it got drugs or grain that was raised using non-organic standards.

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31 KathEats January 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

I’m not exactly sure which type of agriculture you are recommending then? A hybrid of pastured and antibiotics?

I am not so naive that I think everything organic is perfect. The best scenario would be the run a farm myself. But I do think that the farms I support around Charlottesville are the best choice for me. I walked out of Whole Foods the other day without any flank steak when they had no options that I felt were good enough and made a second stop at our local butcher (toddler in tow). Not everyone is as lucky to have access to local meat though, so you have to figure out what feels right for you. I still feel that pastured is better than the conventional farms I have read/seen on documentaries. I hear what you’re saying about the grass not being enough but what would the cows have done 200 years ago? Perhaps just produced less milk.

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32 Kristen January 21, 2014 at 11:12 am

What I was trying to really get through in my comment (which I never usually comment, but this is somethign we fight every day in my industry) is how wrong the comments about organic or pasture/grass fed being a step in the right direction. If you are worried about redisdual chemistry of the drugs, etc used in production agriculture, then yes it is a step in the right direction. But dont for a second believe that its a step in the right direction for humane animal production. Its often a regression, and at best a lateral movement.

Honestly, what do I recommend? A) People need to educate themselves so that they really know what is going on B) If you dont know where your meat comes from, I personaly would buy conventional over organic. But my bigger concern is raising animals in humane conditions which I dont believe organic farm does. Same with pasture. I will not buy pasture fed dairy because in my mind its not humane. Same with free range poultry. Not in the best interest of the animal.

Keep in mind those documentaries are extremely biased. If you really want to understand why some of us feel so strongly about pasture/free range/etc talk to the animal nutritionist and producers and really educate yourself on what happens to that animal.

Production animal agriculture has changed tremendously in the past 200 years, so its not fair to compare what goes on today to what happened 200 years ago just liek its not far to compare us to the EU where demands and production are so much lower than in the US. The dairy cows 200 years ago were way way less productive than today-genetics have improved tremendously even in the last 100 years. Like i said in my first comment, higher production means higher ME requirements, and you cannot physically feed a high producing diary cow enough to meet her requirements. I dont think people understand that a cow can only eat so much. So 200 years ago, if milk production even during peak lacation was way lower, they probably could sustain off a primarily or all forage diet. In places like the EU, they can do more pasture only dairy because again genetics are different and their average milk production is way lower than a typical US farm.

I know that Im not going to change your mind or anyone else’s mind on here, but I wouldnt be true to what I believe if i didnt at least try to educate others. Again, just think twice before saying that organic is better and a step in the right direction. Because thats a blanket statement full of inaccuracies.

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33 Jeanette January 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Oh Lord, STFU. All these long winded, pompous, self inflated comments really get to me. No one is 100% perfect and I’m sure someone could come along at any time and pick apart your comment and let you know all the details that are wrong. If you have such a problem with certain blogs please pass on them. And I’m not so much a “fan girl” as someone whose just sick of these blow hole comments.

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34 Kristen January 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Really? Shut the F up? Was that really called for? So anything that deviates from what you all want to believe is a blow hole comment? Did you ever think that some of us are actually passionate and care about these things? This issue is a big part of my career and I feel really strongly about it about it. And the assumption that was made in the post was not a minute detail that was inaccruate- its something that is a large driving force in animal agriculture today. Consumers are becoming more educated-and in some cases with the wrong information-and this drives what happens in the industry. So if you all keep believing organic = humane and pasture = better, then nothing will ever change. But if people recognize that the idea is flawwed and sometimes worse than conventional, maybe they can cause change with their voices and their wallets.

I posted these comments hoping that Kath and others on here would go “wow I didnt know that. i am going to rethink my views on organic/pasture production agriculture”.

35 Alan January 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

well, what do you think about kosher meat/chicken? I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but kosher meats and poultry have qualitative differences in the product–i.e. certain cows will not be considered kosher if they have findings detected by the inspector (the rabbi supervising the kosher-ness).

I don’t personally know the benefits or downsides of “organic” other than no pesticides, no growth hormone, and maybe feeling bad if the chickens are cooped up vs. being free range

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36 KathEats January 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm

I don’t know all the rules of kosher, but my goal is always a better quality of life for the animals. Organic might not be pasture/grass-fed, but it’s on the way there

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37 Ashley January 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Unless I’m really misunderstanding the definition of “organic” according to the FDA, it *isn’t* “on the way there”. Organic means nothing in relation to the treatment of the animals. If animal’s well being is your goal, it’s better to buy local and pastured meat (like you suggested!) than to look for “organic”. Like Kate mentioned above- all Organic means is they get organic feed- they are almost certainly in cages unless it specifies otherwise. Organic might mean something safer for consumers (Though that’s debatable) but it means nothing for the quality of life of the animals, and it’s not “on the way there” either. It’s a term that tends to make people feel better about buying processed products, but doesn’t have a lot of real meaning.

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38 Madison @ Eating 4 Balance January 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Hey Ashley,

I’m no expert on organic practices, but I was really interested in this debate that was going on so I decided to go check out the USDA’s regulations for organic livestock. What I found was that there actually is a somewhat higher standard for organic vs. conventionally raised animals.

“Farmers and ranchers must accommodate the health and natural behavior of their animals year-round. For example, organic livestock must be:

– Generally, managed organically from the last third of gestation (mammals) or second day of life (poultry).
– Allowed year-round access to the outdoors except under specific conditions (e.g., inclement weather).
– Raised on certified organic land meeting all organic crop production standards.
– Raised per animal health and welfare standards.
– Fed 100 percent certified organic feed, except for trace minerals and vitamins used to meet the animal’s nutritional requirements.
– Managed without antibiotics, added growth hormones, mammalian or avian byproducts, or other prohibited feed ingredients (e.g., urea, manure, or arsenic compounds).”

Source: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5102526

This pdf also gives a little summary of the requirements: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5082660&acct=noprulemaking

As has been pointed out though, even with these standards there are most definitely farmers who do not follow them, and I’m not sure how tightly the USDA upholds the rules. For anyone else interested though in learning more about the USDA standards for organic items they have a website with both the actual nitty gritty legal-sounding explanations as well as some more consumer friendly information too: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateA&navID=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPNationalOrganicProgramHome&resultType=&topNav=&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&acct=nop

Of course, 100% pasture-raised (or the highest percentage possible for animals) would be better, and regulations requiring more specific ethical treatments “best.” However, as Kath said up above, and which I totally agree with is that organic labeling is a step in the right direction.

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39 KathEats January 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this info. You beat me to it — thanks!

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40 Madison @ Eating 4 Balance January 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Oh! My bad! If you found any other information I’d love to read about it in a future post or something. Organic/Grass-fed/etc really interests me! Thanks for the great post and even better conversations :)

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41 Ashley January 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm

That’s really interesting, thanks! Unfortunately, when you see it written like that, it’s easy to overlook all the things that “no antibiotics” means. See Kat’s post above- if an animal is Organic, that means they can’t receive antibiotics, right? So, if they’re sick and it’s treatable, they can’t be treated.
Additionally, most of the things on that list can be lumped under “Receive organic feed”. The only thing I had thought wasn’t true was access to the outdoors. I know though that often “access” means that their cages extend outside the facility- they aren’t able to move around, just able to see the outside and get fresh air (which is something I guess!).

If what Kat said is true (first hand accounts definitely stick with me) it’s terrifying to think that “organic” dairy is actually cows that are sick and underfed. I know we all just want to be informed responsible consumers- and I wish that the industry made it easier! I do think Whole Foods’ number system is helpful on raw meat products, and like you’ve said, at least it’s a start.

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42 Madison @ Eating for Balance March 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I just saw your comment Ashley. I’ve often wondered that too. From what I’ve read there’s three aspects to it:

1. Organic-fed animals tend to get sick less often than conventional so they do not require medication as often.

2. There are a number of natural, non-antibiotic treatments that can solve many of the simpler ailments before resorting to antibiotics.

3. If the animal is given antibiotics, then it would seem logical that they would just then be sold as conventional meat.

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43 Christine January 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Why are you more concerned about choosing organic meat vs vegetables? I’m still new to all of this organic stuff. Thanks!!

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44 Lisa January 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

This was SO helpful Kath! I am always stumped when it comes to what to buy, and I value your RD opinion.

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45 Anne Weber-Falk January 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

This is a good piece on canned soups. I have to say though that I stay away from all canned soups and especially soups in restaurants. Too much sodium. I have yet to find a brand that is low enough in salt but still tastes good. Homemade is so easy to make and so much better for you and there is an abundance of recipes on the web and in books to try.

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46 Rachel January 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I am obsessed with Pacific Foods Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup. OBSESSED. It’s so delicious, and when I posted a picture of it on Instagram one night they actually commented on it! Maybe I’m a nerd but I thought it was cool :)

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47 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I love making my own soups, but I certainly keep boxed options on hand for when I’m pressed for time. I don’t feel bad for eating them when they are the exception instead of the rule! :)

Have a great weekend!

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48 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I definitely need to look at labels a little better on canned soups. I bought a couple cans last month but after I got home I saw that they both had tons of sodium and some “unknown” ingredients…

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49 Claire January 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

While the boxed soups are potentially “better” options out of all the choices out there, one big ingredient sticks out to me… Sugar. Well, evaporated cane juice in most cases and honey in one of the examples above. While sugar is a real ingredient, anyone who makes soups regularly knows it’s not an often used ingredient in homemade. Additionally, organic corn starch doesn’t seem any better to me than a soup with FAR fewer ingredients, made at home, but with conventional produce.

I know the point of your post was to discuss options when one doesn’t have homemade options, but there are definitely some ingredient red flags above.

I’d like to see how Campbell’s and organic soups match up if they are the same type of soup. Beef dumpling v. Creamy squash seems a bit like apples and oranges to me.

I encourage readers out there to make a nice family afternoon of making a soup and then freezing it in small portions so it doesn’t take so long to thaw! That’s what we do in our home :) (Along with boxed soups now and again, added sugar and all…)

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50 Nicole January 17, 2014 at 6:51 pm

I grew up with canned soup being a major staple. It was never the healthy kind either. I rarely buy it anymore, but I do miss having it around the house on those cold days. I wish I was good enough to freeze the soup! I always eat it up the following days because I so love soup! I’ll have to look into these healthier soups to maybe have on hand when a craving hits.

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51 Stephanie January 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Honestly, Kath, I’m really surprised at this post. Not that you are eating canned/boxed soups–we all need quick options and those soups do fit the bill in that regard. Rather, I don’t understand your blanket approval of soups simply because they are available at Whole Foods. I agree with other comments concerned with so-called natural ingredients as well as sugar content and hidden MSG.

For those who are looking for real food options that aren’t leftovers, try soups like egg drop, avgolemono, black bean, or tortellini. They do take a little longer than opening a can but you will have complete control over the quality/quantity of ingredients. When using leftover frozen soup, planning ahead can be a great solution. Put your container of frozen soup in the fridge the night before you want to eat it; it will be ready to throw in a pot the next day at lunch! An added bonus is that homemade soups are so much more economical than canned.

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52 KathEats January 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I’m trying to include some different nutrition topics. I wholeheartedly agree that homemade is ideal but having a few store bought options is realistic for most people

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53 Shana January 18, 2014 at 9:20 am

I agree with Kath. While it’s ideal to eat foods prepared from scratch, it’s rarely realistic for most people. There can be a balance between prepared and homemade foods and we can only do our best, which is to say that it won’t always be perfect. I can only imagine how difficult it is for dietitians these days trying to help people balance nutrition with the demands of real life that prohibit us from preparing all of our foods from scratch. Kudos to Kath to helping us all try to find that balance.

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54 Maeve January 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

I respectfully disagree that preparing foods from scratch is unrealistic for most people. To me, it’s a problem of perception — “from scratch” preparation is often regarded as complex or time-consuming, when in reality many techniques (soaking beans, preparing simple soups, creating home versions of Egg McMuffins) take very little extra time and result in far tastier, healthier, and in many cases, more affordable meals.

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55 Shana January 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm

I hear you. What I meant was that it’s certainly feasible to cook and prepare most meals from scratch if you are willing to put in a little time and effort but there are usually times when life happens and you might have to rely on already prepared foods. I love cooking all of my own meals but sometimes things get so busy that I take a little help from the store. I consider it the exception rather than the rule. It would be cool to see a series on super quick homemade meals from scratch!

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56 Austin Sports Medicine January 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Agreed, Maeve – in reality, it’s about educating yourself. It’s the same when a person decides (or has it decided for them) to switch their diet (to vegan, gluten-free, etc.) – there’s nothing really complicated about it; it just requires learning something new (which, granted, can take a little upfront time). But just like when we take the time to learn anything of value, the long-term rewards always outweigh the initial time investment.

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57 Katie January 23, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Maeve,
Do you work outside of the home? Do you have small children? Myself and my friends who work and have small children are up at 5am to get ready for work, get kids up and dressed, breakfast fed and out the door to be in traffic to get kids to daycare to get to work. at 5pm we get off work to go pick up our kids in traffic, come home and make dinner to hungry little kids and then spend some time with them before taking a bath and putting them to bed. at which point you are completely exhausted but before going to bed you have to prepare their lunches, your own lunch, pick up the house, do laundry if needed and finally go to bed to do it all over again. So if you are telling me making meals from scratch is realistic for me and my friends then you’re crazy! If you work outside of the home and have small children and still manage to make all of your meals from scratch then please share how you do that.

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58 Emma January 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

By those standards, I’m totally out of luck! – there’s no Whole Foods near where I live. Luckily homemade soup is so easy to make, cheap, and freezes well, and I always know exactly what’s in it.

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59 Alex @ Kenzie Life January 18, 2014 at 11:44 am

I liked this post, Kath :) I really like some Amy’s soups and they’ve been really handy as I’ve gone back to work and school, especially paired with a sandwich or an english muffin topped with melted cheese. Hope you have a great weekend!

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60 Livi January 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Lately I am loving the boxed soups from Trader Joe’s- especially the Roasted Red Pepper + Tomato! Such a delicious, healthy, and easy choice!

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61 Cyn January 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the Slow Cooker Chili recipe -it’s a winner!

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62 Ella January 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Let me share with you our family’s fav soup that I prepare literally in minutes (REALLY). A child that knows how to (safely) chop can make this!

a- In plenty of water cook chopped carrots, potatoes and onion (frozen ones work well too…)
b- spice it up as you love the most
c -when cooked puree it with a hand-blender
d- if you want an hearty version, cook rice with it or/and add seared bacon.

Ella
PS: you can prepare different versions just varying the veggies according to season and you taste :)

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63 Katherine January 18, 2014 at 1:29 pm
64 Kay January 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I’m curious why you are comparing such different soups-so much that I googled: Campbells also makes a butternut squash soup, and the ingredients are quite similar to the pacific foods: “Water, Butternut Squash, Cream (Milk), Sugar, Contains Less Than 2% of: Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt, Onions*, Carrots, Apple Juice Concentrate, Cornstarch, Salt, Onions, Celery, Potato Flour, Carrots*, Spice.” – in fact the Campbell’s is free from the ambigous “natural flavor” (I found the list here: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Campbell-s-Home-Style-Butternut-Squash-Bisque-Soup-18.8-oz/21296168)
I love Pacific Foods (their red pepper tomato soup is the only pre-made soup I buy on a regular basis in fact!). But the comparison isn’t fair here. Doing something like chicken noodle to chicken noodle would make the same point, and be an accurate thing to compare (and I looked, you can very much see a difference with Pacific Foods vs Campbell’s for chicken noodle!)

I think pushing Whole Foods isn’t the best thing here either. I personally don’t shop there (the closest one is I think about 7 miles away, I do most of my shopping at the locally chain I can walk to, which also has lower prices!-and honestly, most places I’ve lived don’t have a Whole Foods) but things like Pacific Foods or Amy’s are easy to find at my local grocery store as well as Costco. Giving a few mass market bands vs “shop at whole foods” seems like it would be more helpful for most people.

And this is my overthinking writing about soup while I feed the baby post for the day :-) she’s done nursing, so I’m done putting way too much thought into this! :-)

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65 Ali January 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Kath – I just wanted to send along a kudos for allowing discussions like these on your blog. So many of my favorite bloggers are moderating their comments to death and I’ve lost a lot of interest and stopped visiting their blogs. Part (okay, most) of the reason I visit blogs is to check out the comments and see all the differing opinions. I don’t always agree with you or the commenters (because, well, no one agrees with everyone all the time), but I appreciate you being willing to allow the opinions to be discussed. I can’t imagine it’s easy.

One other thought – I know someone above posted about sponsored posts and receiving items to review and there was some confusion on that. I think the problem is that blogs have become so focused on products, product review, etc. that we almost expect the blogger had some sort of compensation for the product unless there is a statement saying, “I bought all this with my own money and the opinions are my own” (which I think it unnecessary). I think the criticism comes in because so many bloggers are posting about things that are so outside of what the main driver behind their blog is or the product or company is just making the rounds through all the blogs that focus on a similar topic (such as the Old Navy active wear line a while back). It’s a weird conundrum, but I don’t think it’s about just your blog, I think it’s the overall blog culture that is causing that kind of distrust in bloggers.

PS – Amy’s chucky tomato bisque is my favorite canned soup. It’s SO good!

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66 val January 19, 2014 at 12:14 am

have you ever tried Trader Joes soups? they have boxed, canned and fresh. they are really great to keep on hand, i buy them to keep at work in case of a no-lunch situation. and their low-sodium vegetable stock is really good if you want to make your own soup.(and they are inexpensive:)

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67 Kas January 19, 2014 at 9:03 am

I always prefer making my own soups because I know what the ingredients are and it’s very rare that I’ll buy packet or tinned soups, perhaps because I don’t trust what they contain.

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68 char eats greens January 19, 2014 at 10:28 am

I definitely have troubles with making soup and having enough leftover to make its way into the freezer, too!! Even when I feel like I’m quadrupling the recipe, it magically disappears!! Those boxed and canned soups were perfect for our family when we were on Christmas vacation. I love Amy’s canned soups too just because they have amazing different flavours and have a good variety!

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69 Amie January 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

Hi Kath! Just wondering, what would you consider a reasonable sodium amount for canned/boxed soup? I like to make homemade but don’t always have the time. When I go through the grocery store aisle, sodium is often the most confusing thing for me to decide. Thanks!

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70 KathEats January 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I think around the 25% daily value mark is something to shoot for less than. But if you are otherwise healthy then a serving of higher is fine every now and then

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71 lynda January 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I love, love the Pacific low sodium roasted pepper & tomato and the butternut squash. I add vegetables, about a tablespoon of peanut butter, curry powder to the squash soup, microwave in a soup mug for 2 min or less and then sprinkle cheddar cheese or add a little yogurt to the top; great lunch. And to the pepper & tomato, I add vegetables, paprika and top with a lot of cheese and croutons for a peasant style soup. I buy the soup by the case from Amazon! Will never use canned again.

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72 Ttrockwood January 20, 2014 at 12:48 am

Although i make tons of my own soups i also often make five minute soups- i’ll use low sodium v-8, add a can of chickpeas, some frozen corn, handfuls of spinach and leftover quinoa, whatever herbs i have around, and end up with 5xs as much soup as if i had bought one!

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73 Craig January 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

Great information Kath! Going shopping today!!

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74 Hope January 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Ok, so what I took from this post is that homemade soups are the best option but if you need a quick meal, grabbing an organic soup is better than grabbing a can of Campbell’s Chunky! Thanks for the recs. They look really good and I need a change in the lunch department.

I love learning about food and most of these comments have been very interesting. Except the one about your “excessive” alcohol consumption, Kath. I can’t believe anyone would think that the amount of alcohol that you post about is excessive. Maybe that’s just because of the family I grew up with ;)

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75 Tonya January 27, 2014 at 9:53 am

I have been off the blog grid for about 3 weeks and I’m catching up on posts. The funniest thing I’ve seen so far is that that one commenter contacted an attorney the other day, and a scientist on this day to prove her point in the comments section of a food blog. An attorney and a scientist! Kath–I really hope these people make you laugh at the end of the day more than they get under your skin! LOL

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76 Jennifer Leader January 27, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Maria, get off your high horse.

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77 Jennifer Leader January 27, 2014 at 8:20 pm

And another thing…I once emailed Kath with a couple of nutrition questions (by the way, I live in Canada and it would take me 3 months to get an appointment with a dietician here) and she responded to me within the hour. For free. Thanks to Kath and a few other bloggers, I have lost 40 pounds. Maria, you made me really mad. Start your own blog called “I’m the Perfect Mom.” I’m sure you will have lots of followers. Given the choice between lunch and 2 ozs of beer with Kath, or lunch with you…well, easy call. Go shame someone else.

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