Nothing says comfort like a warm mug or bowl of soup on a cold winter day. Soups come in a variety of styles including broth-based, thick and creamy chowders and bisques, and chunky stews and chili. Whatever you’re craving – there is a soup for you. The great thing about soup is that it usually includes several food groups and can be the main course of a meal or simply a side dish. Soups can provide protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals depending on its ingredients.
There are generally two options when preparing soups. The first comes from the grocery store as condensed canned soups, microwavable cup-a-soup, soup packets, frozen or hot ready-to-eat soups. The advantages are that they are quick and easy to prepare, often just adding water and heating. However, many prepared soups can be high in sodium so be sure to read the nutrition facts label. For example, one can of condensed tomato soup provides over half of the recommended daily sodium intake for American adults. Even though one can has two servings, most people eat both servings (one can) as a meal.
The other option is making your own healthy, low-sodium soup. This can sound intimidating but it is not as difficulty or time-consuming as you may think. The first step is to start with a base, choosing either a broth or cream base. Low fat, low-sodium broths and stocks are available at the grocery store or you can make your own. Cook beef, chicken, sausage or turkey with water. After cooking, refrigerate to allow the fat to float to the top. Skim off the fat, remove meat and bones, and use the stock (broth) for soups. You can also freeze it to use later when making soup. The meat can be frozen as well to use in other receives or in soup recipes. Another alternative for your soup base can be a low-sodium canned soup.
The next step is to choose the ingredients you want to add to your soup. There are recipes to follow but you can also be creative and make up your own. This is a great way to clean out your refrigerator or freezer for leftover vegetables and meats. Some great choices are carrots, celery, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes. Usually one cup to one-half cup of diced vegetables is good for most soup recipes depending on how chunky you like your soup. Meat options can include beef, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, ham or sausage. Beans are also a great protein source to add to your soups. Some starchy choices for soups include rice, noodles, macaroni, barley and lentils. Flavor with herbs and spices from your kitchen cabinet to keep it low-sodium.
When making soup, do it big! It takes about the same amount of time to make a large pot of soup as a smaller one, so make it worth your time. A large pot of soup can make enough for several meals so freeze some or share it with others to enjoy. Once the soup is cooked, divide the soup into small containers for 1-2 servings. If you are going to eat it within 3-4 days, you can put it in the refrigerator. If not, freeze your soup and use it within 2-3 months. Be sure to label and date the soup before putting it in the freezer. Thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave. To reheat soup, heat to boiling over low heat or in a microwave. Add water or broth if it is too thick. Add toppings to your soup like homemade croutons, grated carrots, grated cheese, popcorn or sour cream. Homemade soups are a great way to perk up your meals on a cold, wintry day!