Debbie J., MS, RD contributed this article -
The variations of soups are endless given the number of different proteins, grains and vegetables one could choose. Soup is oh so nourishing and it provides hydration, electrolytes, and energy for your body. A warm cup of soup is often the go-to food of choice if you unfortunately fall ill during cold and flu season. But are all soups healthy?
Though comforting, soup typically has a high sodium content. One Cup of canned soup often has anywhere from 480 to 890 milligrams of sodium; this can reach up to 38% of the recommended maximum daily allowance of 2300 milligrams.
If cream is used as the foundation for soup, such as in a bisque or chowder, the fat content may rise above 10 grams per cup; that’s 90 calories from fat! So how does one justify enjoying this simple dish while still meeting healthy standards?
One option is to cook from scratch; by doing this you can replace the salt with herbs and spices. The outcome can be successful if you are comfortable in the kitchen or following a great recipe. Unfortunately for me, I tried this myself and results were inconsistent; sometimes very flavorful and other times my soup was quite watery. Another alternative for healthy people without kidney issues is to use a potassium based salt substitute in lieu of table salt.
Yet another option is to dilute prepared soup with additional water, and then stir in diced vegetables and plain pasta, potatoes or rice. This can be a great way for you to use your leftovers; minimizing wasted food and grocery bills.
Luckily, there are several reduced sodium versions now available on the shelves, as well. Typically, these are at least 25% lower in sodium, but be certain to check the Nutrition Label and look for it to be under 400 milligrams of sodium. By definition “Low Sodium” refers to less than 140 milligrams per serving, and it’s very difficult to find a prepackaged soup meeting that criteria.
For chowders, bisques and cream-based soups, low fat prepared versions are sometimes available in the grocery aisles. Otherwise, you can substitute milk for the cream in making your own, which can reduce the fat content in half.
If you like the texture of creamy soups and want to avoid the dairy fat altogether, consider purees such as butternut squash or red pepper soups. There are even blenders that heat your own purees right in the pitcher!
Another way to enjoy soup within a healthy diet is to savor a smaller amount. Soup doesn’t have to stand alone as a large entrée in a big bowl. Pair a measured Cup with a salad or half sandwich, complemented by a glass of milk and a piece of fruit, and you’ve got a complete meal. Skip the sodium-laden crackers or croutons, though! With all soups, review the nutrition information first and foremost. Then consider what else you are eating that day to see if your overall intake will be balanced.
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