January 31, 2006
posted online February 9, 2006
Start your meal with nutritious soup to lose
By Beverly Combs
Soup is the ultimate comfort food, dispensed
like medicine by mothers around the world for generations. It
looks like those moms knew a thing or two, because soup
definitely has its nutritional advantages.
Not only can it be a hearty source of nutrient-rich
vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, often it can even help you
to lose weight. Consuming soup as a first course in a meal helps
reduce the calorie intake of the total meal because soup can help
you feel satiated with a smaller amount of food.
Processed soup has been under fire in recent years because
manufacturers have been stirring in too much sodium and fat. New
types of healthier soups have since become available. Still with
the growing number of products, it's become more confusing to
wade down the soup aisle of the supermarket because of the
ever-growing number of choices.
Can you tell how healthy a can of soup is by the label? Not
necessarily! Carb-friendly soups can be anything but friendly.
While a soup might be light in carbohydrates, it might be high in
total fat and/or saturated fat. Food manufacturers know how to
paint the product the way they want it to look.
So what does a healthy soup label look like? If you need to
reduce your sodium intake because of health reasons, then choose
soups that have less than 300 milligrams per serving. If you are
not sodium-restricted and simply want to eat healthier, soups
with 400-500 milligrams of sodium per serving are good choices.
And, even those are not so easy to find when regular processed
soups hover in the neighborhood of 800-1000 milligrams per
serving, some reaching as high as nearly 1700 milligrams per
When it comes to trimming the fat in soups, choose broth-based
over cream-based soups, as the latter can have more than 20% of
the Daily Value for fat in a single serving. Look for those soups
containing 5% or less of the Daily Value of fat. When soup
packages call for additional milk during preparation, choose
fat-free milk to improve the nutritional lineup, but be cautious.
Many nutrition labels are based on what's in the package, not
on what you may be stirring into the soup pot.
While you are on your quest for healthy soups, look for soups
that contain the real thing – whole foods. Read the
ingredients list, watching out for names that you can't
pronounce. Dry soup mixes tend to be highly processed, containing
few real food sources and lots of sodium. Look for soups that
incorporate fiber-rich whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.
And soup is no longer relegated only to cans. You can find
instant soup in pouches, soup starter mixes, frozen soups, and
single-serving microwaveable soups you can eat on the go. Also,
be aware of the listed serving size. A lot of times it is 1/2
cup, so if you consume the whole can, you have to multiply the
nutrient amounts listed on the label by at least two or even
If you are weary of scanning the labels of processed soup
products, why not stir up you own soup pot? Start with a can of
low sodium broth or canned tomatoes. Mix in vegetables, leftover
brown rice, spices, and herbs for a quick home-cooked soup that
is packed with nutrition and low in fat and sodium. Then dig in
and comfort your body and soul.
Source: Beverly Combs, Extension Educator, Nutrition and