23 October 2014 Soups and Diets: Made for Each Other

Soup and diets go hand in hand. Or they should. Years ago, a food intake survey showed that people who ate more soup weighed less. Soup companies used that news to market soup as weight loss food. What the survey didn’t say was whether the link between soup and weight was Cause or Effect.

In fact, soup can be a great addition to any weight loss diet. Soup is the focus of The Cabbage Soup diet (it’s basically a vegetable soup, low in protein, but filling).

Here’s why soup is diet-friendly:

  1. Soup is filling. After all, it’s mostly liquid, and warm liquid at that, making it more filling
  2. It can be loaded with healthy ingredients like vegetables, beans and lean meats
  3. Those healthy ingredients boost the nutritional content.
  4. Broth-based soups are not high calorie, and usually not high fat.
  5. Soup tastes good. And there are lots of varieties, so you could eat soup every day and never be bored.
  6. Canned soup is an extremely easy food to prepare. So easy that it can be used for any meal or snack, at home or work.

So what could be wrong with soup?

  1. The main drawback to commercially prepared soups is the sodium content. Salt is used in canned soup and dried soup mixes. The good news is that many soup companies have been quietly reducing the salt in their products, while also creating “low sodium” soups.
  2. Cream-based soups like clam chowder, cream of broccoli or creamy potato chowder taste great for a reason: cream. High fat ingredients add to the calories. For example, 1 serving of Progresso Alfredo Chicken soup has 180 calories and 9 grams of fat. A serving of Light Beef Barley Vegetable has 80 calories.
  3. MSG: some people are sensitive to this flavoring agent, or simply want to avoid it. Fortunately, many companies now make soups without MSG. Look for that claim on the label.

When buying canned or packaged soups:

  • Check the label for key words that indicate lower calories and lower sodium: “Light”, “reduced sodium”, or “low sodium”.
  • Look for nutritious ingredients: lots of vegetables, grains like barley, lean meats like chicken or turkey, beans.

What are the best soups for dieters? Broth-based will be lower calories. Vegetables add to the nutritional content, and to the satiety. Meats and beans add protein. Grains or noodles add variety and flavor, but they also add calories. Some canned soups might list vegetables on the label, but turn out to be mostly noodles.

Another strategy for soup: buy a basic soup that you like (chicken noodle, say) and add your own vegetables and perhaps more chicken. It’s really easy to add a few frozen vegetables and some canned beans to a soup. You can turn an inexpensive broth-based soup into an entire meal.

Yes, a hearty vegetable-loaded soup can be an entire meal. But if you need more food, you can add a tossed salad, fresh fruit bowl, or chopped vegetable salad.

Make your own soup

Soup doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the basic ingredients:

  • Broth. There are lots of choices in plain broth now, from organic to low sodium to vegetarian. Or make your own by simmering turkey, chicken or beef scraps, or a pot of vegetables.
  • Vegetables: canned tomatoes, leftover cooked vegetables, frozen vegetables, finely chopped fresh vegetables like onions, celery, carrots, cabbage, greens, broccoli, etc.
  • Canned beans – they add protein, fiber, many other nutrients and they’re filling.
  • Cooked meat for protein: chicken, turkey and beef are best bets.
  • If you’re vegetarian or vegan, add slices of tofu to your bowl. If you don’t eat meat, top your soup with some grated cheese for more protein.
  • Herbs and seasonings. Garlic is always a good addition. Bay leaf, thyme, basil and oregano go well with basic vegetable/meat soups.

QUICK SOUP FOR 2 (WITH LEFTOVERS)

2 cups broth
1 15-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz can kidney or garbanzo beans
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 TB minced garlic
oil for sautéing
1 cup cooked leftover chicken or turkey
2 cups frozen vegetables, such as green beans, corn, chopped spinach
¼ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp black pepper

In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in oil until soft. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, frozen vegetables and herbs. Simmer for 15 minutes, so the frozen vegetables are cooked. Add the meat just before serving and heat through.

Crockpots can make soup preparation easy if you work all day, and want to plan dinner ahead of time. There are hundreds of crockpot soup recipes available. Here are a few ideas for broth-type soups:

Bouillabaisse

Southwest 3 Bean and Barley

Pork and Black Bean

Vegetable Minestrone

Fiesta Chicken Soup

Black Bean Mushroom Chili

Donna P. Feldman MS RDN

Nutrition journalist at Radio Nutrition

Co-host: Walk Talk Nutrition podcast.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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