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Here’s news that bowled us over: Progresso soups have teamed up with Weight Watchers to hawk a new line of “light” soups. Has real progress been made for soup lovers looking to drop a few pounds?
Check it out. This new “light” variety sports a shiny new label complete with a Weight Watchers logo that exclaims these delicious soups are ZERO points. And, since Weight Watchers’ members count food points like a miser counts pennies, this endorsement is a free pass for dieters. It seems to scream, “Go ahead! Save your points and enjoy a cup of Progresso soup… guilt-free!”
It’s the food sleuths here at BrandAid who are screaming.
The flashy label made us immediately suspicious of this “new” Progresso line. So, to confirm our doubts, we conducted a comparison of the new “light” soups with two of Progresso’s established varieties to see how they’d measure up to the BrandAid standards. Take a look.
Progresso Soup Light Southwestern-Style Vegetable (Weight Watchers)
(1 cup 60 calories, 0g fat, 840mg sodium, 4g fiber, 3g protein)
INGREDIENTS: Chicken Broth, Celery, Tomatoes, Carrots, Green Sweet Peppers, Corn, Black Beans, Red Bell Peppers. Contains Less than 1% of: Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrin, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Xanthan Gum, Inulin, Cilantro, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Spice, Dried Chipotle Pepper, Dried Chili Pepper, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Corn Flour, Sodium Phosphate, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid, Milk Powder, Wheat.
Progresso Traditional Soup 99% Fat Free Chicken Noodle (Fat Free variety)
(I cup 90 cals, 2g fat, 980mg sodium, 1g fiber, 6g protein)
INGREDIENTS: Chicken Broth, Carrots, Cooked White Chicken Meat, Enriched Egg Noodles (Wheat Flour, Egg, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Celery. Contains less than 2% of: Modified Food Starch, Water, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Egg Whites, Chicken Fat, Onion Powder, Carrot Puree, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Soy Protein Isolate, Sodium Phosphate, Dried Parsley, Dried Chives, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color).
Progresso Vegetable Classics Soup Garden Vegetable (Classic)
(1 cup 90 cals, 0g fat, 900mg sodium, 2g fiber, 3g protein)
INGREDIENTS: Water, Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Corn, Celery, Dark Red Kidney Beans, Green Beans, Onions, Contains Less Than 2% of: Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Sugar, Celery Juice Concentrate, Onion Powder, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Dried Parsley, Spice, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Beet Powder (Color), Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Calcium Chloride.
Decoding the Fine Print
The Weight Watchers soup has a mere 60 calories, no fat and a substantial amount of added fiber per cup. Before you get too excited, check out the sodium content. It’s a whopping 840 milligrams for a one-cup serving!
When we compared the sodium levels with the other two varieties, we found that they were off the charts as well. In fact, we found 980 milligrams of sodium per cup of the chicken noodle soup variety. Eek!
Fun Fact: Most Nutritionists recommend we adults consume LESS than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Many would prefer this maximum be around 1,500 milligrams. Here’s why: Too much sodium is known to increase blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and worse.
So let’s do the math. If you eat three meals a day you’re going to want way less than 800 milligrams of sodium per meal, right? And, let’s face it… one cup of soup does not a meal make. Realistically, most of us would probably down the entire can, making that about 1,680 milligrams of sodium in a single meal. Yikes!
Okay, now for a look at the junk ingredients. We found another red flag with the monosodium glutamate which is commonly referred to as MSG. This junk ingredient is at the top of BrandAid’s Most Wanted list! This stuff can cause some pretty nasty side-effects like headaches and seizures. Some experts believe MSG is a contributing factor to obesity! Hmm, we wonder what Weight Watchers thinks of that?
Next, we found autolyzed yeast extract, a code word for a flavor-enhancer with the same properties as MSG. This stuff is in both the light and the fat-free varieties. FYI: These “flavor enhancers” are added to processed foods to preserve taste once the fat is removed. So, we conducted our own taste test. Guess what? These “light” soups are also VERY light on flavor.
Bottom line: The only difference between the light variety and the other two Progresso soups – there are about 30 fewer calories (big whoop!) and some extra added fiber in the new offering. Sorry, but Progresso’s shiny new label, complete with the Weight Watchers endorsement, is a big steaming bowl of marketing deception.
If Weight Watchers added points for sodium and other junk ingredients, these Progresso soups would discourage most dieters from touching a drop of this stuff!
While we don’t approve of the stuff Progresso soup is made of, we do think Weight Watchers has a lot of great qualities in a diet program. We just wish they were more selective about the products they endorse. We think it’s more important to see beyond the “points value” and to consider the actual ingredients listed on the back label. But hey, that’s just us… your online and ever-vigilant consumer advocate.
Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.