Looking for a little heat at the end of a chilly day? Head into the kitchen! Soups are a great way to warm up during the colder months. Many can be prepared in the crock pot, require little supervision, and offer a tasty way to sneak extra vegetables into the diet. Here are a few tips for selecting and preparing the healthiest soups and stews this fall and winter.
- Lighten up homemade cream soups by using instant potato flakes instead of cream to thicken. This will provide a rich, smooth texture without adding extra fat.
- Stretch your dollar by substituting beans for some or all of the meat. Simply rinse one to two cans of your favorite beans (such as red kidney or pinto beans) under water and add to the stew while cooking. Looking to save even more money? Try using dried beans instead of canned – this requires soaking before use, but saves a lot of cash. Check the package for cooking instructions, as cooking times vary depending of bean variety.
- Add fiber to your dish by using brown rice and whole wheat pasta instead of white rice and enriched pasta.
- Reduce sodium by using fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned.
- Plan ahead by preparing a large batch of soup in the stock pot or slow cooker. You can then freeze the soup in individual containers for later use. Soups and stews can be stored safely in the freezer for up to three months.
- Use reduced-fat and low-sodium chicken or beef broth as a soup base for a lighter take on savory stews.
- Be supermarket savvy by reading food labels on canned soups and stews. Choose varieties with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving and less than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories.
- Choose nonfat or 1% milk when preparing condensed creamed soups.
Soups and stews can be a tasty part to a healthy diet this winter. By making a few simple substitutions, you can enjoy delicious soups without weighing down your waistline or your wallet.
Hearty Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup
- 16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 32 ounces reduced-fat chicken broth
- Black pepper to taste
- 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic and onion
- 16 ounces dark red kidney beans
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup green beans
- 1 cup carrots, raw and sliced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ cup instant brown rice
- Parmesan cheese
Place raw chicken in crock pot and season with pepper. Add 1 cup of broth and cook for about one hour on low, or until done. Shred chicken with fork and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for at least one hour. Top with 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese per bowl, if desired. One serving provides 200 calories and 4 grams of fat.
Christina M. Rollins, MS, RD, LDN, is a Clinical Dietitian III with Memorial Medical Center.