Five Best Soups at Trader Joe's, According to a Dietitian
Soup is one of the great comforts of cold fall and winter months, but with busy schedules, making your own soup can sometimes sound daunting (EatingWell has you covered with healthy 30-minute soup recipes, but even that sometimes is too much time).
Luckily, one of America's favorite healthy grocery chains has low-cost options that you can keep in your pantry or fridge for when your soup craving hits. There are a few things to consider when you're evaluating store-bought soup's nutrition information. For example, do you plan for the soup to be a small part of your meal or the main event? If it's just an appetizer, snack or small part of your meal, you may want to be more mindful of sodium content (as well as some vitamins and minerals), but may not be as concerned with fiber and protein. When soup is your main meal, protein and fiber content should shine more, since they're important nutrients for promoting fullness and satisfaction. Eating a potassium-rich potassium soup can help balance out the sodium that is often high in store-bought soups (learn more about high-potassium foods here).Women, in particular, should also be mindful of iron intake in their meals.
I looked at the nutrition labels on lots of Trader Joe's soups, and narrowed down to a bunch of soups to taste test with my family. The results led me to five non-seasonal soups that you can reach for year round when you're in need of a quick option that satisfies your cravings and many nutrient needs. My top five soups happen to be vegetarian, but meat eaters were included in the taste-testing process, so you can rest assured these options can satisfy omnivores too.
1. Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup
Packed with flavor from a variety of vegetables and seasonings, this lentil vegetable soup is also filling. While lentils themselves have a hearty texture that can please both vegans and omnivores, each cup offers 8 grams of fiber, over 30% of the daily recommended amount, plus 7 grams of plant-based protein. The addition of carrots, spinach and tomato also brings the vitamin A content to 40% of the recommended daily amount. Vitamin A is important not only for eye health, but also immune function, so it's a nutrient you want to pay more attention to during cold and flu season (learn more about immune-supporting nutrients). Since the soup contains 0 grams of fat, and a little more protein is beneficial at meals, you can pair with a serving of Trader Joe's Southwestern Chopped Salad, which can complement the mild smokey flavor of the soup and help you stay satisfied. If you're keeping a close eye on sodium, this one does clock in at 680 mg per serving, so you may want to choose it less often.
2. Low-Sodium Butternut Squash Soup
Unless you're specifically searching for low-sodium broth for homemade soups or selecting low-sodium packaged options, high sodium content is almost always a given in soups. This option is a star on this list, though, as it offers great flavor with less sodium than any other Trader Joe's soup option. With just less than 100 mg of sodium per serving, it's a tasty pre-made version of butternut squash soup (which can take quite some time to make from scratch) to include as part of a meal, even for those who have been prescribed strict low-sodium eating patterns. Each cup also offers 3 grams of fiber to help regulate digestion and balance the blood sugar impact from the sweetness, plus while not listed on the nutrition facts panel, butternut squash is rich in Vitamin A and other carotenoid antioxidants that support your immune system. At just 80 calories per cup, with 0 grams of fat and only 2 grams of protein, it's a great starter or side for a meal that includes adequate protein and healthy fats.
3. Low-Sodium Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper
If you love your tomato soup with grilled cheese, but know that soup, bread and cheese are some of the highest sodium foods, this one's for you. Many low-sodium soups can be bland in flavor, but the caramelized red pepper and roasted garlic in this soup help make up for less salt. Not only will you get just 140 mg of sodium per cup, but you'll also obtain 720 mg of potassium, an important nutrient to focus on eating enough of so that it can adequately work with sodium to regulate fluid balance and muscle contractions (like those of the heart). Even with the addition of cream, each cup still just provides 2 grams of saturated fat. Make your grilled cheese with Trader Joe's Sprouted Wheat Sourdough, which offers 7 grams of filling protein per slice, and a reduced-sodium version of your favorite cheese.
Related: Top 10 Sources of Sodium in Food
4.Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains
You'll find this lentil option in the refrigerated section, which often means the soups taste a bit more fresh and homemade. As with the boxed lentil vegetable soup, the lentils provide a comforting hearty texture, and the Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains is a bit more thick compared to thinner, brothy soups. The addition of quinoa, amaranth and flax seeds are what make it more hearty and also help it reach a protein content of 9 grams per cup, along with 15% of the daily recommended value for iron. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common deficiency disease both world-wide and in the US, and no one wants to deal with it's side effects such as low physical and mental energy levels as well as impaired immune function. This soup is also beaming with 8 grams of fiber per serving and has under 500 mg of sodium, which is pretty good for soups that aren't labeled "low sodium."
5. Organic Split Pea Soup
Since you just need to heat and eat, there's now no excuse if you've never given split pea soup a try. Split peas are rich in both protein and fiber, along with many other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Trader Joe's Organic Split Pea Soup has a tasty but mild flavor from a basic mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots, along with garlic and basil. Unlike the green peas you might be used to eating, split peas also are more tender, and help give this soup a rich, thick base. Perfect for dipping with a whole grain crostini or roll. With 7 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein and a good source of Vitamin A, this soup pairs well as a light lunch with your choice of whole-grain bread and a side salad.