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How to choose stock

Stock is a pantry or fridge essential. Stews, risottos, soups and casseroles all rely on stock for flavour. Some of us have time to make our own, but for others store-bought stock is the most convenient.

What’s available

There is a range of powdered, cubed or liquid stocks and it is great to see reduced-salt options. Beef, chicken and vegetable stocks are most prevalent, however there are fish, lamb and herb stocks available as well. Conveniently, some are in concentrated form.

What is in stock?

Fresh stocks and shelf-stable liquid stocks tend to be more like our homemade ones, incorporating meats, chicken carcasses, fish with vegetables and herbs and boiled together. The powdered stocks have a longer list of ingredients. They may include salt, sugar, dehydrated vegetables, yeast, spices, chicken or meat powder and soy. Many contain gluten so, if following a gluten-free diet, check the ingredients list.

Sodium

Store-bought stocks can be high in sodium so we need to keep an eye on this. The Ministry of Health’s recommendation is for no more than 2300mg of sodium per day. In the products we looked at the amount of sodium ranged from 57mg per 100ml (143mg per 250ml cup), to a whopping 541mg per 100ml (1353mg per cup).

While there are many reduced-salt stocks available, it pays to read the nutrition information panel as some of these may still contain more sodium than those not described as having reduced salt. For example, Continental Stock Pot Salt Reduced Beef pots contain 335mg sodium per 100ml, compared with Vegeta Gourmet Stock powder at 139mg per 100ml. We recommend choosing stock with no more than 250mg sodium per 100ml, however no more than 150mg per 100ml is better.

Protein

While most stocks are low in both kJ and protein, fresh stocks from the chiller section tend to be higher in both so if you are watching your weight, you may want to dilute it with water. However, if you want to increase your protein intake, this could be a useful addition to your diet.

Tips

  • To reduce the sodium content of stocks, dilute with water and add extra flavours, such as herbs and spices.
  • Try making your own stock.

How to choose

Use the criteria below to compare products and help you choose store-bought stocks.

Some of the healthier choices we found

Foundation Foods Traditional Fresh Chicken Stock
$6.99 per 500g pouch

Per 100ml serve: 81kJ, 4.4g protein, 57mg sodium; $1.40

A fantastic homemade flavour.

Foundation Foods Traditional Fresh Lamb Stock
$8.99 per 500g pouch

Per 100ml serve: 130kJ, 6.5g protein, 100g sodium; $1.80

This is great. Excellent lamb flavour. Tastes like the real thing.

Vegeta Gourmet Stock Powder
$4.99 per 250g pottle

Per 100ml serve: 3kJ, 0g protein, 139mg sodium; $0.01

A good base with a savoury flavour.

OXO Salt Reduced 12 Chicken Stock Cubes
$2.69 per 71g packet

Per 100ml serve: 38kJ, 0g protein, 170mg sodium; $0.10

A good chicken flavour. Dark in colour.

Continental Beef Powdered Stock Salt Reduced
$2.49 per 120g pottle

Per 100ml serve: 24kJ, 0g protein, 225mg sodium; $0.04

A mild beef flavour.

Simon Gault Fish Stock Concentrate
$6.09 per 100ml packet

Per 100ml serve: 30kJ, <1g protein, 230mg sodium; $0.30

An excellent fish flavour. Great option.

OXO Salt Reduced 12 Vegetable Stock Cubes
$2.69 per 71g packet

Per 100ml serve: 53kJ, <1g protein, 240mg sodium; $0.09

Not too salty with good seasoning.

Campbell’s Real Stock Salt Reduced Chicken
$2.19 per 250ml packet

Per 100ml serve: 34kJ, <1g protein, 250mg sodium; $0.88

A mild flavour. Great to see the salt-reduced option.

First published: Apr 2016



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