Nutrition 101

Soups On!

Soup can be a great addition to any diet. Depending on the ingredients, they can be packed with vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and protein. Research shows that people who regularly consume soup come closer to meeting the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and have lower intakes of fat and higher intakes of folate, beta carotene and vitamin C. See Spotlight on Taste for so many reasons to enjoy soup!

But not all soups are created equal. There are dozens of soups to choose from on the shelves at McCaffrey’s and even more in the freezer section. Soups may be heat-and-serve, or they may be mixes that require the addition of raw ingredients. There are also some delicious options always available at the hot bar. When purchasing soups:

* Check out the ingredient lists. Look for “clean” ingredients that include items that you might have in your own kitchen.

* Choose broth- and vegetable-based soups over cream soups to reduce calories and fat intake. If you do enjoy cream soups, reconstitute them with low-fat or nonfat milk. Better yet, learn how to make creamy soups without all the heavy cream!

* Since soups tend to be high in sodium, check and compare the sodium content of different soups.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that products labeled “healthy” contain no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.
  • To be labeled low sodium, the soup can not contain more than 140 mg/serving.
  • Many commercial soups are very high in sodium, so 600 mg of sodium a serving may be a practical level to aim for. Balance the higher sodium content out with a fresh vegetable or grain salad.
  • Keep an eye on the portion size which is typically 1 cup/serving.

* Consider adding fresh herbs or dried spices, like basil, oregano, ginger to lower sodium soups to enhance flavor.

* Choose a soup with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, which is more than 10 percent of the Daily Value for fiber. Bean, lentil, vegetable and barley soups tend to provide the most fiber.

* Select soups with no more than 6 grams of sugar/serving, which is the equivalent of 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar.

* Do not assume an organic soup is more nutritious or less salty. Check the nutrition label to be sure the numbers meet your nutrition goals.

* To improve the nutritional value of commercial soups, stock up on quick-cooking fresh, frozen or low-sodium canned vegetables that you can add to the pot at home. For a real fiber boost, add beans or brown rice to your soup.

While soup is convenient to purchase, making soup is quick and easy! Get creative with this 1-2-3 vegetable soup template. Keep in mind, you can use as many vegetables and as much both as you want – it is your soup and your choice!

  1. Cut desired vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces. Some wonderful veggies for soup include: carrots, celery, leek, parsnips, rutabaga, kale and tomatoes, peas and corn! Or use precut fresh, frozen or canned vegetables.
  2. Place a medium to large-size soup pot over medium-high heat and add in a little of olive oil or butter. Sauté vegetables such as carrots, celery, parsnip along with aromatics like leeks, garlic or onion for a few minutes, just until they begin to soften slightly. Then, sprinkle in seasonings such as a pinch of dried herbs, like parsley or Italian seasoning. Add in diced tomatoes at this time, if using.
  3. Add chicken or vegetable stock or broth and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Veggies should be tender, but still a bit firm. Turn off heat and stir in any leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach, along with any peas or corn and fresh herbs, as they will easily wilt and/or warm up in the hot liquid. Add a squeeze of lemon to brighten things up as well and enjoy!
According to our Experts, you can make healthy new year’s resolutions in the kitchen.