Soup is easy, inexpensive healthful meal

January 11, 2011|Lynn Little

Soup is a tasty way to eat lots of healthful vegetables and beans while controlling the sodium and fat content. Soup is satisfying and making soup can be easy and economical.

Watching your weight? Soups can help. Soups take longer to eat than many foods, so less food and fewer calories are consumed in the 20-minute period it takes for the brain to realize the stomach is full. This helps prevent overeating.  

Soup can be as simple as adding ingredients to a commercially prepared soup — dress up classic tomato soup with fresh-cut tomatoes and a little basil or choose an easy recipe with ingredients family or friends will like. Include your children by having them choose pasta or vegetables for homemade soup. This can also help spur an interest in cooking family-friendly meals.

Homemade soup is a good candidate for a slow cooker, but there also are recipes that can be put together to make a meal quickly. If using a recipe for the first time, follow instructions exactly. Once familiar with the recipe, consider adding additional ingredients, such as extra vegetables, to suit your taste. Most soups can be prepared whenever you have the time and then refrigerated or frozen until needed. Many soups taste better when refrigerated overnight, allowing the flavors to blend.

Made from fresh, wholesome ingredients, homemade soups are bursting with nutrients and fresh flavor.  

To simplify soup-making keep the following soup ingredients on hand:  

  •  Pasta in a variety of shapes such as stars, alphabets, bow ties or tiny tubes.
  •  Diced tomatoes, canned.
  •  Cooked meat or poultry, which could be leftovers from a previous meal.  
  •  Broth, either homemade or commercially prepared and sold in a can or box. Low-sodium varieties are preferable so that soup can then be seasoned to taste.
  •  Barley, a delicious whole grain. Choose either quick-cooking or pearl barley, which is the slow-cooking variety.
  •   Vegetables, fresh, frozen or leftover such as carrots, potatoes, onions, corn or mixed vegetables.
  •  Beans and lentils, either inexpensive dried varieties that require cooking or canned beans and/or lentils that can be drained and used immediately.
  •  Herbs, either fresh or dried. Tip: Use less of a dried herb, but rub it between your fingers to release flavor.
  •  Vegetable juices to add additional nutrients and body.
  • For toppers, use low-sodium whole grain crackers; seasoned croutons; grated cheese; shaped crackers; or a sprinkle of herbs. Serve with salad and bread.

Soup recipes usually make several servings and often provide enough for several meals. Cover and refrigerate leftover servings to use within a day or two or place leftover soup in a freezer container, label and date for use as a future meal.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

Mexican chicken soup

2 -15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1- 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn or 1-15 ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
1-14.5 ounce can chicken broth or 2 cups homemade chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-teaspoon chili powder
1-teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1/4-teaspoon black pepper
1 pound, skinless, boneless chicken breast

Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired) and pepper to a large saucepan.

Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken and return shredded chicken to the soup.

Serve with your choice of garnishes (chopped cilantro, light sour cream, shredded cheese, etc.)

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