With the onset of cold weather, hearty soups play a wonderful role when planning nutritious meals for ourselves and our families. They can be prepared in advance, stay tasty after sitting on the stove all day, can be served to young and old, and, best of all, a soup is a truly nutritious meal. Or is it?
Of course, the answer can’t be as simple as just a yes or no. So, let’s take a deep dive in to the wonderful world of vegetables soups.
Combination foods, such as soups, can present a wonderful opportunity to serve up a tremendous amount of nutrients. And many soups do – if a soup is truly a vegetable or legume soup, then that soup can rightfully be called a nutritious dinner. However, the truly discerning health-conscious individual will know to read the full ingredient list before deciding that a soup is healthy. Ingredients such as sugar, white flour, and wine will detract from a soup’s overall nutrition ranking. Sodium may be liberally added to season a soup. Overcooking vegetables degrades heat-sensitive nutrients. Furthermore – please, please, never indiscriminately pour oil into the pot while preparing a soup! While fats do contain many nutrients, they are also extremely calorie dense.
This brings us to our next topic, a true favorite of mine: energy vs. nutrients. A food can be very full of nutrients, and also very full of calories! “Healthy” does not exclude energy dense. That is definitely okay, however, if you are eating soup as part of a weight loss diet, be aware that many soups do contain a large number of calories.
Soup ingredients such as sweet potato, onions, barley, beans, lentils, and split peas are fantastic sources of fiber, vitamins, and mineral. They also provide energy. Soup ingredients such as zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, herbs, broccoli, and cauliflower provide nutrients without the energy. In a sense, it’s important to decide on a purpose to your soup before embarking on a soup-making journey.
Soups are super versatile. If you want your soup to be your meal, go ahead and make that nutrient dense, energy-dense, hearty soup. However, if you are looking for a delicious, low-calorie option, be an educated cook and choose your soup ingredients accordingly.