Soup can be a deliciously filling part of your meal as a main or side course for lunch and dinner. With endless combinations and possibilities, having soup regularly can help you control your weight, keep healthy and stretch your grocery budget. Adding some whole wheat bread or a sandwich can also turn a soup lunch into a hearty dinner. Keep some common ingredients in your pantry and fridge and experiment with different combinations until you find a few of your own favorites.
When looking for a healthier alternative for soup, try creating broth- or stock-based dishes instead of creamy ones. Stock-based soup is essentially water-based soup created by reducing meat, chicken or vegetable broth and then adding additional ingredients such as grains, pasta, beans and vegetables. Because a serving of soup looks and feels like a large portion of water, the stomach and the hunger centers of brain are left more satisfied, according to researchers at Penn State University. Cream-based soups, on the other hand, involve adding flour, cream or milk to your water or broth before the other ingredients. This not only adds unnecessary fats, carbohydrates and calories, but also increases the amount of preservatives in your dishes.
Many vegetables are high in water content, providing volume without the calories. They are low-energy-density foods, meaning you can eat a large amount of them for a low number of calories. MayoClinic.com suggests including vegetables in your ingredients for a healthier dish, especially as many are also high in fiber, which leaves you feeling full longer. Healthy and inexpensive soup-friendly vegetables include celery, cabbage, carrots, peas, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Use vegetables that are locally grown and in-season, such as pumpkin in the fall, to save money on your grocery bill.
Whether you're craving hot comfort food or tightening the budget belt, beans and legumes are always a better idea than splurging on meats. Varieties common to North America are navy beans, chickpeas, soldier beans, white, kidney and butter beans. The excellent nutritional benefits of eating more beans and legumes include that they are almost entirely free from fat and sodium, are cholesterol-free, and constitute a good source of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, calcium, iron and folate. Dry beans will need to be soaked and boiled before adding them to your favorite soup stock along with a handful of vegetables. For a better bargain, purchase dried beans in bulk.
Herbs and Seasonings
Using different herbs and seasonings in your soups helps add flavor and reduce your daily salt intake. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that adults should not consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day to keep blood pressure within a healthy range. If you’re having a portion or two of broth- or cream-based soup for lunch or dinner and add a lot of salt to it, that sodium intake will quickly add up. Instead, using herbs such as basil, mint, and parsley, and seasonings such as cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano, can help decrease your reliance on salt, without reducing the flavor.
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.