The pandemic has definitely led to a whole new appreciation for pantry items. In the past, it’s been a common misconception that everything needs to be bought fresh to be healthy. No one’s knocking the produce section, but if you’ve spent any time perusing the middle aisles of the grocery store lately (or online), you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of nutrient-rich options out there—canned soup included.
The canned soup aisle can seem overwhelming at first glance. There are so, so many options. If you follow a plant-based diet, it can be even trickier to navigate since so many canned soups contain chicken or beef. But, like other pantry items, canned soup has evolved to include some great nutrient-rich, plant-based options too.
To save time on lingering in the soup aisle comparing nutritional panels, I reached out to registered dietitian Alexandra Caspero, RD, for her intel on which plant-based canned soup was the healthiest of all. Her pick: Campbell’s Well Yes! Hearty Lentil with Vegetables Soup ($2). She says that she’s a fan of this one because it’s a vegetarian option with simple, nutritious ingredients and no additives such as high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Plus, it’s filled with powerhouse ingredients, including lentils, tomatoes, carrots, and spinach. She says she likes the number of veggies inside and lentils are one of the healthiest soup ingredients there is, full of protein, fiber, iron, and calcium.
Of course, the beauty of canned soup is that you can just pour it into a pot, heat it up on the stove, and enjoy it as is, but Caspero has some meal ideas for how to make it even more nutrient-rich, whether it’s adding one extra ingredient into the mix or making something simple to pair it with on the side. Rounded up here are four ideas.
4 ways to cook with lentil and veggie soup in less than 5 minutes
1. Add alt-pasta
If you want to make your lentil and vegetable soup heartier while also upping the protein and fiber intake, adding a cup of alternative pasta, such as black bean or chickpea, will do just the trick. For example, one serving of Banza chickpea pasta has 13 grams of protein and five grams of fiber.
Watch the video below to see what alternative pasta is healthiest:
2. Add dark leafy greens
“[As is], the soup provides 20 percent of daily veggie requirements,” Caspero says. Want to do one better? Add dark, leafy greens like collard greens, spinach, or chard, all of which will pair well with the other ingredients. Collard greens aren’t typically thought of as a protein source, but they actually have 5 grams a serving, as well as calcium and vitamin B6. Spinach is high in iron (something many plant-based eaters need to be especially mindful of), and chard is high in fiber and antioxidants. Just stir the washed and cut greens into the heated up soup until they wilt.
3. Pair with a chickpea salad sandwich
“Since canned soups typically have a tested ratio of ingredients and flavor, I prefer to make something on the side,” Caspero says. “[For more protein], I might add a chickpea salad sandwich,” she says. A vegan take on tuna salad, it’s made with chickpeas, red onion, relish, dijon mustard, mayo, lemon juice, and paprika. It’s so quick to whip up that you can make it while the lentil and veggie soup heats up on the stove.
4. Pair with grilled cheese on whole grain bread
Another quick sandwich Caspero says you can quickly make while the soup is heating up is grilled cheese—a classic soup-and-sandwich combo. She prefers to use dairy-free cheese for hers, but whatever type you go for, she says the key is using whole grain bread. Unlike white bread, whole grain bread includes complex carbs, which means it will be higher in fiber and won’t spike your blood sugar as much.
“Canned soup tends to get overlooked in the supermarket, but the canned soup aisle is filled with nutrient-rich options and can be part of a healthy diet,” Caspero says. “I eat it often, especially paired with a simple salad for a quick weeknight meal.” While, again, you can totally eat her soup pick as is, there are some easy ways to make it even more nutrient-rich. And they’re all, er, soup-er simple!
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