January is “National Soup Month.” Does that mean we should incorporate more of it into our diets?
The short answer is yes; there are good reasons to do so. Several studies over the years have shown eating a first course of soup can help cut back on the amount of food and calories you eat at a meal. One study showed it reduced total calories by 20%.
The trick is to choose a low-calorie, broth-based soup and only have a single serving (about one cup and between 100-150 calories). High-calorie, cream-based soups will likely increase the total calories consumed at the meal. Having clam chowder is not going to be helpful for saving calories, but a butternut squash soup made with broth, not cream, is low-calorie, full of fiber and gives you a creamy, bisque-like texture without actual dairy products.
Sometimes it’s hard to be satisfied by a cold salad in wintertime, so having a hot cup of soup that can help fill you up and reduce calories allows you to have that comfort food without all the calories typically associated with comfort food. I recommend soup a lot to my patients for this very reason.
It’s also a good way to get extra vegetables, which boosts your intake of fiber and other nutrients. Foods are plenty nutritious if they are cooked, and a lot of foods we can’t digest particularly well when they are raw, so cooking can actually aid digestion. If cooking vegetables makes them more palatable to someone, that is beneficial for their diet.
Another fallacy is that frozen vegetables aren’t as nutritious as fresh ones. Frozen foods are not processed, they are just frozen, and they are equally as high in nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you want to make soup your entire meal, it’s important you incorporate enough protein. I recommend 20 grams per meal. A lot of soups don’t have enough protein in them, so that’s why something like lentil soup is great because it gets you both protein and fiber. Broth-based vegetable soup isn’t going to be a complete meal if it doesn’t have enough protein in it.
If you don’t have the time to make your own soup, there are a lot of really great options out there. Amy’s Organics and Pacific soups are a few brands that carry broth-based, low-sodium soups. The benefit with something pre-prepared is that the package has a nutrition label on it, so you can see exactly how many calories and sodium is in a serving.
Kimberly van Groos is a nurse practitioner specializing in medical weight management with Overlake's Metabolic and Bariatric Services clinic.
Whole Foods' Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cups cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in butternut squash, thyme, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Purée soup with an immersion blender or let the soup cool slightly and purée in batches in an upright blender.