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7 Easy Tricks For a Healthier Bowl of Soup

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easy tricks for a better bowl of soupThis week, Everyday Health launched the #10SoupChallenge to encourage readers to eat more healthy, homemade meals and increase their veggie intake. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to add 10 delicious and nutritious soups to your menu over the next two weeks.

For this first week, the goal is to enjoy a low-cal, broth-based soup before your biggest meal of the day. Studies show that starting a meal with a bowl of low-cal veggie soup helps to fill you up, so you eat fewer calories overall. Adding a soup appetizer course is a smart weight loss strategy that you can incorporate into almost any eating plan, and I'm a fan because it promotes satisfaction rather than deprivation.

Next week, we'll transition to eating heartier soups that are substantial enough to serve as complete meals. The goal is to incorporate nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, beans, and lentils, along with lots of produce, and pack plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other good stuff into every steaming bowl.

I'm adding an extra layer to the challenge by encouraging readers to serve homemade soups, instead of store-bought varieties. Canned and restaurant soups can be packed with sodium, so making your own recipes gives you the option of cutting down on salt substantially. You can also add extra vegetables and choose from a much wider variety than the typical carrots, green beans, and tomatoes. And, since most recipes are one pot meals that don't require a lot of babysitting, whipping up homemade soups is a manageable way to add more home-cooked meals to your weekly menu.

If you're up to the challenge (and I hope you are!), here are some tips to help you work nutritional wonders in your old soup pot.

  • Start with a lower-sodium base. If you have the time, you can make your own low-salt vegetable, chicken, or beef stock by simmering bones and/or vegetable odds and ends (people trendier than I might refer to this as bone broth). Or, you can simply buy low-sodium or unsalted broth or stock at the store. Ideally, look for brands that have less than 400 mg sodium per cup, and if you don't spot any options at that level, mix the broth with a few cups of water to dilute the salt content.
  • Get creative with vegetables.If you're making a basic vegetable soup for week one, jazz things up with parsnips, fennel, celery root, squash, artichoke hearts, okra, or chopped leafy greens along with some of the usual suspects. I like using shredded cabbage strips as a low-cal noodle stand-in.
  • For a creamier concoction, go the pureed route.By pureeing vegetable soups in a high-quality blender, you can create a luxuriously smooth texture without adding cream or other high-cal ingredients. My favorite pureed varieties are cauliflower, broccoli, and butternut squash. The technique is simple: saute onion, garlic, and other aromatic ingredients until tender; add the main veggie ingredients, broth, and seasonings and simmer until the vegetables are soft; and finally, blend the soup in batches until silky. Add 1/2 cup white beans or 1 to 2 small potatoes for even more creaminess.
  • Experiment with whole grains.Soups are the perfect vehicle for incorporating grains that you don't cook with often. I'm always on the lookout for soups featuring barley, since I rarely eat it in any other form. It's the perfect grain for the job, because it thickens the soup as it cooks, creating an irresistible, slightly sticky broth that coats your spoon beautifully. Farro, wild rice, bulgur, and quinoa are also right at home in hearty soups.
  • To make it a meal, add beans or lentils.Soups are a familiar way to work more plant-based proteins into your diet. To make lentil-vegetable soup, I use dry lentils and cook them directly in the broth (most varieties take 30 t0 40 minutes to get tender). Since dry beans take quite a bit longer to cook from scratch, I usually opt for the canned form (low-sodium, of course) and dump them in during the last 10 minutes of cooking. You can also try replacing half the pasta in your favorite soup recipes with beans to add more protein, fiber, and nutrition.
  • Use soups to stretch meat.If your family is trying to eat less meat but still skeptical of purely vegetarian meals, soups are a great way to make a small portion of animal protein go a long way. Just 1/2 to 3/4 pound of meat is enough to flavor an entire pot of broth. I like using this technique with fresh sausage, since it's an ingredient I love but don't prefer to eat in large amounts. This sausage, kale, and white bean soup satisfies my meaty craving but also serves up plenty of healthful ingredients.
  • Always double or triple the recipe.You'll thank yourself three weeks from now, when you need a quick dinner solution and there's a container of soup in your freezer ready to come to the rescue. If you make a big batch, you will have to do more chopping, but you'll only have to wash the dishes and go through the cooking process once, which is a huge time saver. So use the biggest pot you own and make as much as you can, then freeze the leftovers in individual containers or one big container. Right now, I have five or six varieties in my freezer, and they have saved me from dinner despair more times than I can count.

Ready to get started? Share your favorite soup recipes below and get cooking!

Photo: Offset.com

Last Updated:1/12/2017
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Date: 10.12.2018, 13:25 / Views: 51595