There’s something warming and delightful about dishing up a steamy bowl of soup or stew to chase the chill away. Many people find this kind of nourishment extra satisfying during the dark winter months. There is a variety of flavors and styles: consider a light squash or carrot soup as a starter or light lunch, or stir up something heartier like Brunswick stew or black bean soup to serve as a main course at dinner. Some people think of soups and stews as brimming with unhealthy ingredients, but I’ve put together five tasty ways to have your pot brimming with nutrition, not fats and sodium.
Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to sit down to a bowl of nutritious, delicious soup is to doctor up prepared soup with healthful and flavorful ingredients. Why not add frozen vegetables or canned beans to ready-made vegetable soup? When you stir canned corn and crabmeat into tomato or roasted red pepper soup, you have most of a meal in a single dish. Add a little tomato paste or jarred ginger into canned soups for a powerful flavor boost. To lower the sodium, mix cans of regular and no-salt-added ingredients together, or use the no-salt-added only.
“Fake” the fat
Pureeing all or just part of your soup provides a velvety mouth feel without the fat. This can make soups such as creamy broccoli or creamy carrot very low in fat. I prefer a stick blender, so I can puree right in the pot. If you don’t have one, use a traditional blender, but be very careful when transferring hot soup into the blender carafe. Cooked and pureed potatoes, carrots, white beans, and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are especially good for thickening both soups and stews. I’ve been adding mashed white beans to chili and chicken stew for years, and no one has been the wiser.
Nonfat plain Greek yogurt adds creaminess too. When your stew or soup is cooked, remove the pot from the heat for a few minutes. Then stir in the Greek yogurt, or add a dollop on top of individual servings for DIY creaminess.
Grab every bit of flavor
Red peppers are good, but roasted red peppers pop with flavor. The sweet taste of onions intensifies when they’re caramelized in a little olive oil. If you have time, roast, caramelize, sauté, or brown your ingredients before cooking. Before serving, sprinkle chopped scallions, parsley, cilantro, or any favorite herb to add more flavor and texture. To add a bit of crunch without carbs, lightly sauté your favorite herbs in a touch of olive oil and sprinkle the resulting crumbly sensation on your soup.
Clean out the fridge
Soups and stews are versatile and they can often be made with the ingredients you have on hand. Toss several fresh vegetables into a pot with enough water or broth to cover the contents. Add your favorite flavors such as garlic, ginger, chili peppers, oregano, or thyme, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Then puree. Now you can really use your imagination. Toss in cooked shrimp, chicken, canned beans, brown rice, or quinoa. Season to taste with pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, or herbs and spices.
A minestrone soup comes together lickety-split with fresh or frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes, beans, and broken whole-grain spaghetti. The only ingredients pumpkin soup needs are broth, canned pumpkin, and your favorite autumnal spices. And a zesty bean soup is quickly yours when you toss together broth, black beans, and jarred salsa. The combinations are limited only by your imagination and the ingredients you have in your kitchen.
If you prefer broth instead of water for the base of your soup or stew, keep cartons of low-sodium varieties on hand, or make your own and freeze it. Instead of throwing out (or worse – feeling that you have to finish) small portions of leftover meats, chop and freeze them. Do the same with vegetables. When you need a fast soup, take them from the freezer and drop them into simmering broth with some peppercorns and parsley. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to bring out your slow cooker. I enjoy arriving home at the end of the day to find dinner almost done and the house smelling like I’ve cooked for hours.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE*, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience