Enjoying a Hearty, Comforting Soup

by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES

You’re looking for warmth and comfort, and a bowl of soup sounds inviting. You also know you are working on limiting your sodium intake and that when you eat soup, you get hungry an hour later. What can you do to make this work?

Having a small bowl or cup of soup with a meal as a side is delicious, but when you want the soup to be the entree, it needs to be substantial enough to help meet your nutrient needs, along with managing your blood sugar and keeping you satisfied for longer.

Making Your Soup Heartier

Soup is warm and comforting, but it doesn’t always provide enough protein and fiber to help you stay full. Many soups also contain excessive sodium that can cause havoc with high blood pressure.

Making soups heartier can be a simple fix. You can start with a store-bought soup or one that you have made from scratch. If it is a thin soup made from broth, one thing you can do is add more of an already existing ingredient. If it has chicken in it, add more chicken. Or add more veggies to an already existing veggie soup.

Need more protein? Go for at least a total of 14 grams of protein. Add an ounce of poultry, lean beef, or pork for 7 grams of protein, and beans, peas, or lentils will add 8 grams protein for one-half cup. Use minimally processed meats to avoid excessive sodium.

An ounce of shredded cheese will add 6 grams per 1/4 cup. Adding more cheese than this will increase sodium, so don’t be too heavy-handed. Dairy or soy milk adds 3-4 grams for a half-cup. Milk made from plant sources will not be a good protein contributor.

Are you trying to add fiber? Ten grams of fiber in an entrée is excellent. Add non-starchy (low carb) veggies. Grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and barley, also work well to bulk up a soup. Including low-sodium beans, peas, or lentils will not only add viscous (soluble) fiber but will add a protein punch. The protein and fiber will help manage your blood sugar and lipids as well as control your hunger.

Are you cutting back on sodium? Limiting sodium to 500 mg or less for an entrée can help. Grains will typically not add any sodium but check the label to be sure. If adding canned veggies, be sure they are no salt added or low sodium. Frozen, fresh, or lower sodium options in canned veggies will add flavor and fiber without sodium, making it better for managing high blood pressure.

If Starting from Scratch

If you have a little time, start with a low sodium broth, add canned lentils, instant versions of barley or brown rice, and non-starchy (low carb) veggies. You can also add any leftovers from your fridge to make your dish tastier. To keep sodium from climbing, use a low sodium version of lentils. Onion and garlic add flavor and nutrients to your creation.

Store-Bought Soups

Most store-bought soups are high in sodium and low in fiber and protein. You can still be creative, though, and make a soup your own by adding a few extra ingredients. When purchasing a soup, be sure to get one with 450mg or less of sodium for an 8-ounce cup, and you can make it heartier and to your satisfaction.

If you want soup as a side dish, some options to keep sodium on the lower side and have a healthy serving of protein and fiber are Amy’s brand Light in Sodium soups Split Pea and French Country Vegetable. Also, Healthy Choice’s Lentil Vegetable Soup Made with Chicken Broth is a favorable option. They can also serve as a starting place if you want to add to them in making them an entrée.  Be sure to keep your portion to no more than 8 ounces, or the sodium will increase dramatically.

Soups provide comfort, and with a few tasty additions, they can also provide you with a more robust amount of nutrients to support your immune system and keep you full for longer.

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