Warm Up With Soup This Winter
November 30, 2015
There are few better ways to warm up on a cold day than with a hot bowl of soup. Dietetic Intern Kinga Raynaud gives her tips on building a healthy, hearty bowl!
Soups are versatile, inexpensive and easy to make. While hearty soups can be served as a meal itself, lighter clear soups are refreshing and can be a tasty side dish to accompany salads and sandwiches.
With some thought, soups can be prepared with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, as well as a healthful dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and nourishing collagen (that comes from bones and cartilage used in making stocks). Nutritious broths can help to restore electrolyte balance as well as soothe our digestive tract. Perhaps this is why when sick or fatigued, we find soups to be energizing and comforting.
People who are trying to lose weight often incorporate a light broth based soups in to their diet to help with calorie control. With about 100 calories for a 12 oz portion, a light broth-based soup fills the stomach quickly making less space for a large second course. However, in order for soups to be healthy and nourishing, they should be prepared with some thought to ingredients, starting with broth or stock.
Stock vs. Broth
Both stock and broth may contain scraps of vegetable, meat, and bone, however stock has a higher proportion of bones to meat than broth (for instructions on how to make your own stocks, check out this blog post).
During prolonged cooking, collagen is extracted from the bones and connective tissues into the cooking water, creating a thick and gelatinous texture. The more bones, the more collagen and therefore stock has more richness than broth. While any bones will do, those with a high bone-to-flesh ratio will contribute the most collagen. While stock will become gelatinous when cooled, broth has a lighter flavor and stays liquid when cooled.
You can keep the fat content down by skimming the stock while cooking, selecting leaner cuts and trimming off skin and any excess of fat surrounding the meat or bones. And once the stock or broth cools, fat will solidify on the surface and can be easily removed.
Soup is more delicious if it’s made of fresh, seasonal vegetables (frozen vegetables can work as well, since most are frozen in season). Many soups begin with the classic mirepoix, or vegetable trio, consisting of onions, carrots, and celery that are finely chopped and gently sautéed to build the character of the soup. Once the stock or broth is poured over the mirepoix, other vegetables like mushrooms and greens can be added for variety and flavor.
Legumes like split peas, beans or lentils can transform your soup into hearty and more complete dish since they are high in fiber and can help you feel full longer. Canned beans work fine and reduce the prep time, but make sure you rinse them first to reduce the sodium content.
If you want to balance your soup with some starches, you can add whole grains like barley or noodles and pasta. Just keep the cooking time in mind and add toward the end of cooking to keep them from becoming overcooked.
And don't forget that leftovers can be a perfect addition for soups. You can use what you already have around the house, like leftover tomatoes, onions, rotisserie chicken, rice or pasta.
If you are looking to thicken a soup, there are several ways to go about it without going overboard on saturated fat and calories. Plant-based thickeners such as pureed tofu, potatoes or white beans will make the consistency more substantial without modifying the flavor.
Other healthy thickeners include cereal grains like farina, oatmeal, barley or couscous. If a recipe calls for heavy cream, try substituting whole or 2% milk or Greek yogurt (full fat or 2% as the nonfat may separate in the hot soup). And you can quickly turn a thin soup in to creamier dish by blending a few cups of soup on the side and then adding it back to the remainder.
Soups taste just as good or even better the next day. To preserve soup’s texture and quality pour the soup into small glass containers, which will cool faster. Soup can be stored safely in the fridge for a couple of days or can be frozen in small batches for up to a month.
Don't want to make your own?
If you lack the time to experiment with making soup from scratch, there are many terrific healthy choices for soup. But be a smart shopper! Check out this infographic to learn useful tips on how to shop for healthier soups.
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