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How to make a nutritious homemade soup

When it is cold outside, eating a steaming bowl of soup can be one of the best ways to warm up. Soup can be comforting and healing when it’s full of healthy ingredients. Beware though, it can also be a hidden source of sodium and unhealthy fat to the unsuspecting cook. Below are some tips for preparing a soup that is souper nutritious and delicious.

Tip 1: Go for fiber.

Soup loaded with vegetables, whole grains, and legumes keeps blood sugar stable and the belly full for a longer period. Include a colorful array of veggies to ensure the body gets a variety of vitamins and minerals. Use brown or wild rice, whole-grain pasta, or legume-based pasta to increase fiber.

Tip 2: Load up on lean protein.

Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar and prolong satiety. It’s best to choose lean sources to minimize unhealthy fat. Cuts of meat that are further from the bone and have the skin removed tend to be healthier. For example, skinless chicken breast is preferable to chicken thighs and legs. Legumes provide lean protein and fiber—two sources of nutrition rolled into one.

Tip 3: Include hints of healthy fat.

Fat helps stabilize blood sugar, optimizes the absorption of vitamins from vegetables, and promotes feelings of fullness. Good sources include healthy oils (such as olive or avocado), whole-food garnishes (such as olives or avocados), and cream alternatives (such as milk alternatives, silken tofu, or plain Greek yogurt).

Tip 4: Choose salt-free seasonings and ingredients.

To make homemade soup less salty, choose low-sodium stock or broth, fresh or frozen produce, fresh meat, and dried legumes. Minimize added salt and depend mostly on spices and herbs. Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, and leeks) can enhance flavor without adding sodium and calories.

Tip 5: Watch the packaging.

Broths, veggies, and beans stored in cans lined with BPA may pose a health risk because the chemical may interfere with hormones and increase the risk of certain cancers. Consider choosing BPA-free cans or food packaged in Tetra Paks instead. When storing homemade soup, some container materials to consider include stainless steel, ceramic, and glass.

Tip 6: Read labels.

While homemade soup is best, sometimes there just isn’t time to make it. When canned soup is the only option, look for ones that contain under 500 mg of sodium per serving. It’s not unusual for half a can of soup to have 890 mg sodium, which is almost 40 percent of the total adults should have in a day. Excessive sodium intake can cause the body to retain fluid, which can damage blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure. Choosing a low-sodium soup and adding herbs, frozen veggies, and whole grains is a great way to bulk it up and keep the salt content more reasonable.

Natalie Leustek is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys helping patients use nutrition to become their healthiest selves.