Soup’s on! Take chill off of winter with healthy, hearty stock

italian soupThere’s nothing I like more to fight the chill — and the bugs — of winter than a hot, healthy bowl of soup. One of my favorite go to meals when I’m feeling under the weather, soup can be a tasty appetizer or a one-dish meal on its own. Plus, there are many ways to make soup delicious and healthier without adding butter, cream or other high-fat, high-calorie ingredients.

Start with fat-free, low-sodium vegetable, chicken or beef broth and add fresh vegetables, herbs and spices in any combination that suits your taste. Even with just a few of these simple ingredients, there is no reason for any soup to lack a bounty of flavor.

To make a healthy and filling soup, try adding:

  • Vegetables — carrots, legumes, root veggies — for their antioxidant power, nutrients and high fiber content.
  • Whole grains, like hulled barley, to kick up the fullness factor.
  • Fresh or dried herbs like oregano, chili powder, tarragon, thyme, basil or dill to provide complex layers of flavor to replace what salt and fat deliver.
  • Lean protein like chicken breast, pork tenderloin and lean beef to increase the protein content and make it feel like a meal.

Here is one of my favorite soup recipes:

Italian Vegetable Soup

Loaded with fiber, this recipe makes a large batch of soup, which freezes well, too. For more protein, add shredded roast chicken or turkey or one cup cooked and crumbled Old-Fashioned Breakfast Sausage. (Makes 12 large servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 can (14.5 ounces) chopped tomatoes
8 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup dry bulgur
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1-1/2 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern
1-1/2 cups cooked red or black beans
Salt (see note below)
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil in a 3- to 4-quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes, broth, oregano, basil and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the bulgur and cabbage and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes longer or until the bulgur is tender. Stir in the beans and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Season with salt if desired. Garnish with the parsley and serve hot.

Note: If using unsalted or homemade stock, you may wish to add a little salt to taste. The nutrient analysis includes a purchased stock containing salt.

NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING: 145 calories, 7 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 80 mg omega-3s, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 347 mg sodium

© Cheryl Forberg 2016