When you think of soup, do you think of a health food or a heart attack? Believe it or not, most people consider soups to be more harmful to health than beneficial. But I'm here to help soup reach its full potential and earn its way back on your health hero list. In this post, I'll explain the pros and cons of soups and I'll show you how you can enjoy a bowl of healthful goodness no matter what your time availability or cooking skill level.
The Pro: A nutrition boost! Soups can be a wonderful way to get more veggies, fiber, and plant-based protein in your diet. Soups made with low-sodium broth, veggies, beans, and lean protein have a lot of nutrition to offer for 100-200 calories per serving.
The Con: Most people worry about the sodium content of soups so they avoid them altogether. The reality is you have room in your sodium bank account for about 600-700mg of salt per meal. If you generally eat a healthy breakfast and lunch then you have room for a soup-salad combo at dinnertime every once in awhile.
The Pro: Makes meals last longer. Did you know that one of the keys to weight management is making meals last 20-30 minutes? That's the time needed for hunger hormones to get the message that you're eating and starting to feel full. Hot soups take some time to eat, so by starting your lunch or dinner with a modest one cup serving, you're adding about 10-15 minutes to meal time.
The Con: No downside to this one! If you're a 5-minute-meal eater, this is an easy way to start your new weight loss plan, by simply slowing down your eating pace. Instead, speed up your walking or running pace!
Soup-er Short Cuts
If you don't have time to spend hours in the kitchen, you can still have soup that tastes like you did. Here's a way to get a nice big pot of steaming soup ready in no time.
- Start with a large pot or dutch oven.
- Place a quart of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth.
- Combine a 16 ounce bag of frozen vegetables. Anything will do. Use mixed veggies for a standard vegetable soup or try something like spinach.
- Add in one can of rinsed and drained beans. Again, any kind will do, but cannellini, white beans, or kidney beans work best.
- Sprinkle in some black pepper and any of your favorite herbs and spices. Try some red pepper flakes for some subtle heat. If you have fresh herbs like basil and cilantro, save them for adding at the very end of cooking.
How to Find a Healthy Convenience Soup
Bravo for broth.Look for a broth-based soup over cream-based soups, which will be high in artery-clogging saturated fat.
- Say whoah to sodium. Some soups at the grocery store can have a half-day's worth (1000mg) of sodium in a single serving! The good news is there are many low- and reduced-sodium soups available. I recommend looking for a soup with less than 600mg sodium per serving.
- Believe in beans and veggies. Look for soups made with beans and legumes like black bean, lentil and split pea soups. They will have more protein and fiber than other soups, which will help you feel full and satisfied. Any veggie-based soup, whether it's vegetable barley, roasted red pepper, orbutternut squash, will offer vitamins and minerals.
- Love your label. You wouldn't buy a pair of jeans without knowing who made them so give your groceries the same label love. Flip the can before sticking it in your cart to make sure the calories, sodium, and saturated fat are low and the protein and fiber are high. Avoid soups that say creamy, cream of, or bisque unless the saturated fat is really low on the label (less than 3-4 grams per serving).
Now it's your turn to sound off. What's your favorite way to do soup? Have any ideas for making a cream soup healthier?