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Soup's On! Take the Chill Off Winter with Healthy, Hearty Stock

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Fresh Herbs & Spices
There's nothing I like more to fight the chill - and the bugs - of winter than a hot, healthy bowl of soup. One of my favorite go-to meals when I'm feeling under the weather, soup can be a tasty appetizer or a one-dish meal on its own. Plus, there are many ways to make soup delicious and healthier without adding butter, cream or other high-fat, high-calorie ingredients.

Start with fat-free, low-sodium vegetable, chicken or beef broth and add fresh vegetables, herbs and spices in any combination that suits your taste. Even with just a few of these simple ingredients, there's no reason for any soup to lack a bounty of flavor.

To make a healthy and filling soup, try adding:
  • Vegetables - carrots, legumes, root veggies - for their antioxidant power, nutrients and high fiber content
  • Whole grains, like hulled barley, to kick up the fullness factor
  • Fresh or dried herbs like oregano, chili powder, tarragon, thyme, basil or dill to provide complex layers of flavor to replace what salt and fat deliver
  • Lean protein like chicken breast, pork tenderloin, and lean beef to increase the protein content and make it feel like a meal
Here is one of my favorite soup recipes:

Italian Vegetable Soup
Loaded with fiber, this recipe makes a large batch of soup, which freezes well, too. For more protein, add shredded roast chicken or turkey. (Makes 12 large servings)
Image of Italian Vegetable Soup
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup finely chopped Onions
1 cup finely chopped Carrots
½ cup thinly sliced Celery
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
1 pound Tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 can (14.5 ounces) Chopped Tomatoes
8 cups Fat-Free Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup Dry Bulgur
2 cups finely shredded Cabbage
1½ cups cooked White Beans, such as Cannellini or Great Northern
1½ cups cooked Red or Black Beans
Salt (see note below)
¼ cup chopped Italian Parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil in a 3- to 4-quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes, broth, oregano, basil and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the bulgur and cabbage and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes longer or until the bulgur is tender. Stir in the beans and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Season with salt if desired. Garnish with the parsley and serve hot.

If using unsalted or homemade stock, you may wish to add a little salt to taste. The nutrient analysis includes a purchased stock containing salt.

Nutrient Analysis Per Serving:
145 calories, 7 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 80 mg omega-3s, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 347 mg sodium.
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