A veggie-rich, broth-based soup can warm you up and help you get more nutrients into your day.
There’s no food more comforting on a chilly winter day than a steaming bowl of soup. With the right ingredients, it can also be an easy way to boost your intake of vegetables and important nutrients.
"Soup is a fabulous way to add nutrition," says Debbie Krivitsky, director of nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Center.
Many soups are low in calories — after all, they consist largely of water — but even so, they are often very filling. One 2012 study published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a smooth soup actually felt full for longer than people who ate a solid meal. This may be because soup is high in volume, which made their stomachs physically fuller. Soup also seemed to affect blood glucose levels differently than the solid meal, which may have increased satiety.
Craving a creamy soup?
Creamy soups can be a nutritious option if you make a few adjustments.
- fat-free milk instead of cream
- olive oil instead of butter
- low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock instead of a higher-sodium variety.
The recipe for a nutritious soup
It’s easy to build a highly nutritious soup by focusing on four main components, says Krivitsky.
1. Choose the right base. Use broth, not cream, as the foundation of your soup. "Look for a low-sodium chicken broth with between 140 and 200 milligrams of sodium per serving," says Krivitsky.
2. Go green (and red and yellow). A nutrient-rich soup contains lots of vegetables. "It’s an opportunity to eat the rainbow. Vary the colors of your vegetables to add nutrition to your dish," says Krivitsky. Add whatever type you like, whether it’s leeks, carrots or celery.
3. Build it up. After vegetables, add your protein of choice, such as beans or chicken. A quick option is precooked chicken that you can just cut up and toss into the pot.
4. Make it whole. Slipping in whole grains can round out the nutritional value of your meal. Grains, such as whole barley, farro, and brown rice, can add texture. They are also a good source of nutrients and prebiotics, which are foods that help to promote a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in your gut.
Pair your soup with a sandwich or a salad for a simple dinner.
Below is an easy soup recipe that you can customize to fit your preferences and nutritional goals. "These vegetable soups are great because they’re so versatile," says Debbie Krivitsky, director of nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Center.
To change it up, simply swap in different vegetables — such as zucchini, turnips, broccoli, or bell peppers — for the carrots or green beans. Instead of potatoes, try a whole-grain pasta, barley, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. And if you want to add some protein to the meal, simply toss in some tofu or beans.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 medium leeks, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch of salt
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 cups cut (3/4-inch) green beans
- 2 potatoes, cubed
- 8 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth
- 4 cups chopped tomatoes, with their juice
- 1 cup corn
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. Toss in the leeks, garlic, and salt and sauté over medium-high heat for five to six minutes. Add the carrots, green beans, and potatoes. Cook for an additional four to five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the low-sodium vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomatoes and corn. Cook for an additional five minutes. Adjust the seasoning as desired.
Top off your soup
Take your soup to the next level by adding some homemade croutons. Here’s how to make them:
- Cut a whole-wheat baguette into one-inch cubes and spread the cubes on a cookie sheet.
- Spritz the cubes with olive oil.
- Sprinkle them with garlic.
- Put the cookie sheet in the oven at 350° until the croutons are golden brown.
Or make grilled cheese croutons by putting cheese (try a light or reduced-fat cheddar) between two slices of whole-grain bread and grilling it in a pan. Once it’s toasty and brown, cut it into cubes and use it to top tomato soup.
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