Questions or comments? Email author Lisa Franzen-Castle, PhD, RD, Extension Nutrition Specialist
What’s better on a cold winter day than a warm bowl of soup? Soup can be nutritious, easy to prepare, and inexpensive. It can be great hot or cold, prepared with minimal clean-up, only needs one pot, and the combination of ingredients is unlimited. Soup is a great dish for a variety of palettes and can be tailored to be spicy, savory or sweet. January is National Soup Month, a good time to think about how soup can fit into a healthy eating plan. Follow these helpful tips for making soup delicious and nutritious.
Tips for Delicious and Nutritious Soup:
Soup for every season. As appetizers, side dishes, or main dishes, soups help celebrate the bounty of the four seasons. Soups can be thick and hearty, smooth and creamy, or savory. They can be served hot, such as minestrone, or cold, such as mango and cucumber soup.
Be sodium savvy. To keep soups tasty and healthy, use low-sodium broth, stock, or soup base for the foundation. Experiment with flavorful herbs and spices in place of salt. The most effective replacements are savory flavors with "bite," such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill seeds, basil, ginger, coriander and onion. Use minced or powdered garlic and onion rather than their salt form. When substituting minced or powdered garlic and onion for the salt version, use about half as much.
Make healthier choices with Nutrition Facts Labels. When buying canned soups, use the Nutrition Facts Label to help choose ones with lower sodium levels. Foods with less than 140 milligrams (mg) sodium per serving can be labeled as low-sodium foods. Claims such as “low in sodium” or “very low in sodium” on the front of the food label can help identify foods that contain less salt.
Choose healthier substitutions. Soup can be a healthy, inexpensive meal. Keep soups lower in fat and calories by using cheese, sour cream, or bacon sparingly as a topping or garnish. Or choose healthier substitutes like reduced-fat shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream, non-fat plain yogurt, or turkey bacon. Substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product – such as using whole-wheat noodles, barley, or brown rice in soups and stews.
Cook once, eat twice. Homemade soups can be made ahead of time and in large quantities. Eat refrigerated soup within three to four days or freeze it. Don’t let soup set at room temperature for more than two hours. To speed cooling, store soups in shallow containers. When serving a second time, bring to a boil.
Check out these resources. Check out food safety tips for serving soup safely and a variety of simple recipes for soups and stews at http://food.unl.edu/january-food-calendar#soup.
During National Soup Month and beyond, experiment with different recipes and ingredient substitutions for healthier soups. Find ways to vary your veggies with warm soups in the colder months, and focus on fruits with chilled soups in the warmer months.
Feel free to use/adapt Healthy Bites material (with credit) for your own articles, blogs, handouts, etc. An example credit line would be: Authored by or Adapted from Lisa Franzen-Castle, PhD, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Nutrition Specialist. Healthy Bites Newsletter, http://food.unl.edu/healthy-bites-january-national-soup-month, January 2016.
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