Soup is warm comfort food, sure, but it's not always the most exciting (or healthiest) recipe idea. These healthy cooking hacks are about to change that.
Photo: Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images
Sometimes it seems like soup falls into two categories: (1) satisfying, cream-based, and fatty and (2) watery and bland. But when soup is done right, it can be both healthy and filling. These healthy recipe hacks are total game-changers.
Enjoy creamy soup without the cream.
Creamy soups are comforting and delicious. The only downside? Heavy cream can add a lot of extra calories. The good news is that there are lots of delicious workarounds. A blender is your BFF for giving soups a creamy texture. Cooking butternut squash and pumpkin and then blending it all up gives you a silky, bright soup packed with flavor and nutrients. You could also try potatoes or parsnips if you're looking for a lighter color or a milder flavor. For smooth and easy blending, make sure your cooked soup ingredients are soft enough. If you're using a standing blender, give the soup some time to cool first, then blend in stages if the recipe is for a larger batch. TBH, the easier solution is to use an immersion blender. The kitchen gadget will make for easier cleanup and faster food on the table, so it's a win-win. (Another new kitchen gadget you'll want to master at home? The sous vide.)
If you absolutely can't do without milk, try an unsweetened nondairy milk, like protein-rich pea milk. Of course, almond, coconut, or oat milk also work.
Lower the sodium without sacrificing flavor.
Less salt doesn't need to mean less flavor. Using a low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water is a great first step. Make sure to rinse canned beans before tossing them into the water, as well, because that sticky liquid is loaded with sodium and doesn't add anything to your soup's taste. Load up on spices instead of adding salt. You'll get tons of flavor with minimal sodium. Bonus: Lots of spices and herbs have healing properties.
Make a filling vegan soup.
Protein is key to making a vegan soup satiating. Try beans, lentils, or split peas. Puréed tofu adds a creamy texture and a healthy protein boost. You could also use crumbled tempeh as you would ground meat. Though they're more processed, the occasional fake meat product like soy-based sausage works in a pinch, and adding protein powder helps too. Go for a neutral flavor like pea protein. (Discover more high-protein plant-based foods that are easy to digest.)
After cooking, make soup toppers work overtime by choosing options that add more than just crunch or extra flavor. Top your bowl with hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, or crispy, roasted chickpeas—all nutritious alternatives to crackers or croutons.
Turn soup into a meal.
To elevate your bowl of soup from appetizer or side to full-meal status, make sure you have a combination of protein, complex carbs, and plenty of veggies. Adding a poached or fried egg on top of a bowl of vegetarian soup is also a delicious way to add staying power.
Another handy tip: Don't be afraid to doctor up your soup by adding a helping of browned ground turkey or cooked chicken if you need more protein. Collagen powder is also great for this. Just whisk in a scoop—swear you can't taste it. Not into it? Try unflavored protein powder or dry milk powder. I'm also a big fan of adding veggies. The easiest approach: Zap some spinach or kale in the microwave and stir it in. You can also add any leftover or frozen vegetables you have on hand. Zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, and spaghetti squash are some of my other favorite add-ins that instantly beef up a soup.
Eat more soup to lose weight.
Soup cleanse this is not. But it's true that broth-based soups with plenty of veggies and some kind of lean protein like chicken or beans are the best choice when you're trying to keep calories in check without feeling hungry. You can enjoy a huge bowl of healthy soup (now that you have the hacks and tips to make it happen) without overdoing it on calories for the day.
That said, if nothing but a creamy bowl of New England clam chowder or broccoli cheddar is going to do it for you, have a small cup and savor it. One cup of soup won't kill you or your healthy diet habits.