The Best (and Worst) Soups You Can Eat

‘Tis the season, especially when it comes to warming meals like soups. Soups are awesome for diets—they’re filling and satisfying—but there’s a difference between ones that are great and ones that, well, aren’t so great (we aren’t going to say “bad,” because they can be delicious).

Is soup healthy?

In short, soup can be very healthy! Many soups include a variety of lean proteins and vegetables. The best soups are the ones that are broth-based, whether that’s beef, chicken or veggie broth. They warm your stomach with a serving of low-calorie, low-fat goodness that’s flavored with macronutrients (like protein) and micronutrients (from veggies, like carrot, celery, and onion) as well as spices. These sorts of soups are a complete meal in a satiating cup. That said, it’s worth evaluating the amount of sodium in each of these soups—it can be a surprising amount.

The worst soups are the ones that are cream-based or even cheese-based. These start with a heavy dose of fat that can be compared to the amount in a dessert. Whatever the nutritional value of the other ingredients—from clams and lobster to broccoli and mushroom—it’s compromised by the decadence of the base. Soups like bisques and chowders can be yummy, but they aren’t what anyone would consider to be diet-friendly.

Here, we consult with Cara Walsh of Medifast California about the best and worst soups when it comes to your diet:

Healthy soups

Healthy soups typically include lean proteins, vegetables and are water or broth based. They are delicious year-round, but feel free to jazz up the soups below with seasonal vegetables.

Black-eyed pea soup

This warm wonder is powered by its dose of black-eyed peas, a source of protein that is low calorie, low fat and packed, with nutrients, including iron and Vitamin B9. Plus, this soup receives a boost of vitamins and minerals from its veggies (e.g. carrot, celery, and onion). Want to be even healthier? Hold the bacon and ham.

Butternut squash soup

This velvety dish is one of the healthiest soups, according to Walsh. ‘That’s because it’s packed with Vitamin A, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. There’s a host of other goodies in this soup, including Vitamin C—plus, a sprinkle of autumn! Because what’s better than the taste of squash during the fall season?

Chicken noodle soup

This favorite is good for the soul—and the waistline. It’s low in calories and fat and boasts a solid amount of protein from the chicken broth and, of course, the chicken. This soup is also a source of selenium and Vitamin A, which supports your thyroid. Our one caveat: it’s sodium-rich, so be cautious about the salt.

Minestrone soup

This broth-based stew is brimming with veggies, which means a rainbow of fiber and nutrients. (We prefer the version with tomatoes because, well, it’s Italian and what’s more Italian than tomatoes?) “This soup is packed with vegetables that can help you reach your daily vegetable intake!” Walsh adds.

Unhealthy soups

Most things and foods are fine in moderation, but consuming high levels of saturated fat on a regular basis tend not to promote health.

Broccoli and cheese soup nutrition

The healthiness of this dense soup depends on the focus of the recipe: the broccoli or the cheese. “Any soup that uses the cheese as the base is not the healthy way to go,” Walsh says. “Most versions of this soup focus on the cheese, rather than the broccoli.” Broccoli is one of the most awesome veggies because of its nutrition profile, but not when it’s drowning in cream and cheese.

Clam chowder nutrition

Clams are a great source of protein, are low in calories and fat, and filled with minerals. That said, clams aren’t as low in calories and fat when added to a dish that’s rich with cream and dressed with potatoes and bacon. And Walsh agrees, “Clam chowder is one of the worst soups a person can eat. It’s high in fat, calories and sodium.”

There is 180 calories in a cup of clam chowder. The macronutrient breakdown in a cup of clam chowder is 20 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein.

Instant ramen nutrition

Cup Noodles (and other brands of instant ramen) are basically cups of hot water overflowing with sodium and MSG. “Instant ramen is one of the worst soups one can eat,” Walsh says. “It offers little nutritional value and is very high in sodium.”

Lobster bisque nutrition

This is another soup with the curse of being too creamy, according to Walsh. “Lobster bisque has 20 percent of the daily recommended serving of fat, and most of it is saturated fat. Plus, there are close to one thousand grams of sodium!” Lobster is an excellent (albeit expensive) source of protein, but our recommendation? Save this soup for a special occasion.

Elizabeth Quinn Brown is a writer based in the East Village who accessorizes her (pilates) spandex with wedges. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.