I adore soup. I would eat it every day if my children wouldn’t rebel. Making soup at home brings so many benefits—and not just nutritionally, of course.
At this time of year especially, soup means warmth and comfort. When someone makes you homemade soup you can practically feel the love that went into its preparation. That feeling doesn’t come across when someone makes you a sandwich. When I’m the one making soup, (whether to take to a sick friend or just for my own little family) I feel connected to the ingredients simmering away in the pot in a way that I don’t experience when cooking other things. It’s a little hard to explain, actually (and most of you no doubt think I’m rather nutty at this point). Maybe it’s because good soup takes some time to make. Or maybe it’s because with just a few simple ingredients anyone can make soup magic. Regardless, soup is humble food that is cherished by cultures all over the globe. I guess it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that people regain the ability to make soup at home instead of having to rely on a can, packet or microwavable bowl.
Soup is a good vehicle for vegetables
- Nutritionally, soup can go a long way toward helping you get your daily allotment of veggies. For some reason, most people don’t object when veggies are delivered via soup. Sometimes I use soup as a way to work more unusual vegetables into my family’s diet. For example, my kids are not known for being cabbage-lovers (why that is, I cannot fathom), but when cabbage is in soup, suddenly it’s ok. Same goes for bitter greens and certain types of beans. Soup is a good place to use up small quantities of fresh or frozen veggies, and cooked leftover vegetables as well (throw them in at the end since they really don’t need more cooking, just heating).
- Keeping sodium in check is also easy when you make your own broth. Low-sodium and no-added-salt broths are available of course (always check labels to make sure they are also gluten-free) and I always have some on hand, but making one’s own broth isn’t hard, and gives you the ultimate control over sodium levels. Find a broth or stock recipe you like (Martha Stewart’s is a basic but good choice), then freeze what you won’t be using right away. (This is most helpful if you freeze the stock in amounts that make sense for your cooking—in 2-cup portions, for example, if you’ll be using it instead of water to cook grains in, or in quarts for other soup recipes, or even in an ice cube tray if all you ever really need is a small amount to flavor other dishes.) Over time you’ll find that you’ll tweak the stock recipe to suit your tastes.
- Seasoning your soup is the other area where you can make a major impact on its sodium level. Use a variety of herb and spices and you’ll need less salt—that’s a well-known bit of advice that remains true, though simple. Another idea is to bump up perceived sodium levels with things like a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar. Also keep in mind the other ingredients—if some are salty, back off on adding salt. While tasting and tweaking the seasoning of your soup, you may find it hard to detect any differences between tastes. Our tastebuds get fatigued. Drink some water, take a little break from tasting and come back to it after a few minutes away. In general, err on the side of adding too little salt. It’s always easier to add more than it is to take it away once added. Plus, if you under-salt dishes during cooking that allows each person to add as much (or as little) salt as they want for themselves at the table.
If you’re hankering for soup this winer, here are a few of our recipes, and we promise more to come very soon!
-Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD
Photo credits: Betty Crocker, friendseat.com, seniorlifestyle.com