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Falling for Soup | October 11, 2013

There’s something about autumn. Crisp breezes set the trees ablaze in vivid colors. Boots and scarves come out of hiding. Rainfall causes umbrellas to blooms like flowers in May, nudging people indoors in search of comforting fall staples: warm pastries, piping hot tea, frothy espresso drinks, hot cocoa, and course… soup.

Soup is a versatile and tasty way to satisfy your appetite this season. It doesn’t matter if it’s lunchtime, dinner time, or in-between time. However, the nutritional quality of soup is often as cloudy as the sky during a late October thunderstorm. How do you enjoy soup and feel like you are making a healthy choice, too? Let’s clear things up a little!

The first thing to do is find the nutrition facts list. This is easy with canned soup, and many restaurants have or are required to have the information. Do not hesitate to ask if it isn’t listed on the menu. Sodium and fat are often the culprits in making a soup less-healthful. The USDA recommends that people have less than 2,300mg of sodium daily, and less than 10% of their daily calories from saturated fat. Keep in mind portion sizes, too, because canned soups often contain two or more servings. No nutritional information available? There are key words that can hint at a higher fat content, such as bisque, creamy, and cheesy. Soups containing beef or pork can also be higher in saturated fat. Another idea is to opt for smaller portion sizes. Restaurants will often have a bowl or cup option. Try a cup of your favorite soup paired with a simple green salad and whole grain bread.

Nothing clears up nutritional ambiguity like making something yourself. If you have a favorite soup recipe that you’d like to lighten up a bit, it’s probably easier than you think! If you make your own stock, refrigerate it and skim the fat off the surface. Cut the sodium by using low-sodium bases (broths, pastes, or cubes). Use less cheese or reduced-fat. And if you’re trying to keep your “creamy” soup creamy, use non-fat and reduced-fat products such as non-fat half & half.

You can’t deconstruct your soup, but you do have control over what additions you add and what goes on top. Need a little creative inspiration to enhance nutrition and add colorful intrigue to a simple homemade or canned soup? Try tossing in whole wheat pasta, lean meats, beans, firm tofu, chard, leeks, corn, bell pepper, sweet potato, peas, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, or zucchini.

Finally, watch the garnish! Cheese, sour cream, and bacon loaded onto your bowl can quickly add extra calories, fat, and sodium.

Celebrate the change in seasons with your favorite soup recipes.