When it comes to comfort food, few things beat cozying up to a warm, nourishing bowl of soup.
But here’s the catch: With tons of creamy, fat-laden soups and stews (New England clam chowder, we’re looking at you), many of our favorite recipes clock in at astonishingly high calorie counts.
That’s why I tapped top chefs, nutritionists, and fitness experts to share how they keep their soups good for the soul and body, down to the last slurp.
1. Cook veggies strategically.
“Cook your veggies in soy or almond milk. This gives them a creamy base. Make sure to chop them to similar sizes so that their flavor distributes easily when they cook,” advises Cat Smiley, author of The Planet Friendly Diet.
2. Befriend miso.
“Add miso to your favorite noodle broth for its delicious umami flavor, fiber, and antioxidants,” says Chef Elliott Prag, of New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive culinary school that also offers public classes.
Note: Be sure to opt for unpasteurized miso, to make the most of its live, beneficial enzymes.
3. Slip in some beans.
Often in soup, we rely on beef, bacon, and other tasty but fatty protein sources. Instead, slip in beans to add heft and bulk to your soup — or take it a step further and turn them into a smoky, hearty one-pot dinner.
“Beans (garbanzo, red beans, and lentils all work great) are an excellent lean source of protein and fiber,” says Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. “So if you are having soup as your main course, [including beans] is an excellent way to transform the soup into a complete meal.”
4. Spike your soup with greens.
No matter what the recipe, every soup can benefit nutritionally (not to mention taste-wise) from an added serving of greens.
“For a delicious and generous dose of vitamin C and calcium, add dark, leafy greens to your soup,” says Prag.
Pro tip: Hold off on adding kale or collard greens until the end of cooking to preserve their nutritional content.
5. Splurge on fresh herbs.
Sure, dried herbs are great, but fresh herbs really elevate soups to next-level heights.
“Nothing can change the flavor of a dish like a fresh herb. Fresh fennel fronds, basil, and rosemary are all a great way to ramp up the flavor of the soup,” Hayim says.
The best part? You’ll be less likely to rely on that old salt shaker for flavor.
6. Ditch the sour cream.
“For Mexican dishes that call for sour cream, try a low-fat Greek yogurt,” suggests Hayim.
“It can add a similar flavor but won’t be nearly as high in fat as sour cream. It also happens to be delicious!” Or, if you must have sour cream, at least make it vegan.
7. Take a cue from Asia.
When in doubt, use fresh garlic and ginger whenever you can. Both ingredients play nicely with Indian- and Asian-inspired recipes, like Carrot, Turmeric, and Ginger Soup.
“Garlic is antiviral, antioxidant, and antiseptic,” Prag says, while “ginger is soothing to the digestion and has anti-inflammatory effects.” How’s that for a win-win?
Want more soup inspiration? Start here:
- One-Pot Meal: Warming Soup With Butternut Squash & Chard
- Zucchini + Basil Soup
- Green Winter Detox Soup
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