Healthy Eating

5 Reasons to Say Yes to Winter Soups

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

When the weather turns colder, sipping steaming hot soups and stews can keep you warm and toasty. Soups not only take the bite out of a frosty night, they’re also a fuss-free way to get dinner on the table fast.

Whether a light, broth-based creation or a hearty stew, Julie Fromm, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health System, says sipping on soups offers these five advantages:

  1. They’re good for you. While some soups can devastate a diet (beware of cream-based varieties), most serve as a great vehicle to meet your quota for veggies. If you have produce that’s about to pass its prime, tossing them into a soup recipe can give them new life. View soups as an opportunity to cash in on nature’s bounty (unlike summer squash, winter crops, including pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips, won’t wilt or get limp when you cook them). “You can even drop frozen vegetables into boiling broth without compromising taste or texture,” says Fromm.
  2. They’re inexpensive and easy to prepare. Soups and stews don’t require a hefty amount of hands-on time. In fact, if you use a slow cooker, you can prepare a savory soup in five minutes flat, and let the cooker do the rest of the work. If you amp up the liquid and vegetables, you can use smaller amounts of expensive ingredients, such as chicken, fish and beef. Then, make it a meal with whole-grain bread on the side and a small salad if you like.
  3. They freeze well. Whip up a batch on a rainy weekend, and you can stash half in the freezer to enjoy later. A bonus: you’ll have healthy, homemade soup at the ready when you’re under the weather or too tired to cook.
  4. They keep you hydrated even when you don’t feel thirsty. During the winter chill, it’s not uncommon to drink less than you need. But while you may not be hot and sweaty, you still lose fluid through daily activities. “Since soups are mostly liquid, they’re a great way to stay hydrated,” says Fromm.
  5. They give your immune system a boost, so you’re less vulnerable to colds and flu. And they’re a great antidote when you’re sick, too! Most soups are loaded with disease-fighting nutrients. In fact, studies show that chicken soup in particular can help prevent the common cold, especially if you load it up with fresh garlic, onions, celery and carrots. (They all contain powerful immune-boosting chemicals.) A bonus: the hot liquid helps soothe a sore throat.

Quick tip: “Whenever possible, use homemade stock or broth,” says Fromm. “Bouillon cubes, canned broth and even broth in a box are often high in sodium and can be particularly problematic for people with high blood pressure.” Strapped for time and need a quick fix? Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts food label on the broth you buy to compare the sodium content of your favorites. (Don’t forget to pay attention to the serving size!) A daily value of more than 20 percent is considered a high sodium food.

Craving more creative ideas? Here are five fabulous soup recipes to keep you warm and healthy this winter:

Soups Made Simple

Broccoli Soup

Barley and Lentil Soup

Turkey Chili with Vegetables

White Bean Basil Chicken Chili

Heart Smart® Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Heart Smart® Carrot-Ginger Soup

For more advice on healthy eating, check out our EatWell section.

Julie Fromm, R.D., is a community dietitian with Henry Ford Health System’s Generation With Promise program, which focuses on empowering youth and families in the community to increase their consumption of healthy foods and physical activity and balance caloric intake.

Heart Smart® is a registered trademark of the Edith and Benson Ford Heart & Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital.