Developing recipes using seasonal ingredients is one of my favorite pastimes. In the summer, I focus on grilling and recipes that include berries, tomatoes and corn. In the spring, my meals revolve around fava beans, asparagus and artichokes. As the weather turns crisp in the fall, the hearty greens, apples and pears that make their way into markets inspire me. And when it comes to winter, winter squash, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts are on my mind.
While I love making a variety of dishes, one of my favorites to cook during the winter is soup. Honestly, I can — and do — eat soup year-round, even on 90-degree days in the middle of the summer. But when it gets cold outside and the days are shorter, there’s nothing better and more comforting than a bowl of piping hot soup, especially one that is full of hearty vegetables. It’s no surprise then that January is Soup Month!
Besides being warm and comforting, soup has been found to have a host of health benefits, one of which is to help control calorie intake. Studies conducted by Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State and the well-known author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan, have shown that a preload of soup can decrease the total calorie intake at a meal. The reason? Soup has a high water content and many contain particles of varying size, which enhance gastric distention and slow gastric emptying, thereby enhancing satiety. The fact that soup is generally hot also aids calorie control — it forces you to slow down when you eat, and eating more slowly has been linked to decreased BMI and potential decrease in diabetes risk.
Surely you’ve heard that chicken soup is a must when you have a cold. If you’ve ever wondered why, think about what happens when you eat hot soup: Your nose starts to run (at least that’s what happens to me!). Chicken soup has been shown to speed up the movement of mucus, which helps relieve congestion. Vegetable-rich soups are a great way to consume a variety of vitamins and minerals, plus some antioxidants that may fight off colds and flu, too.
Make sure your soup is nutritious and delicious with these tips:
- Keep the sodium low by using low-sodium broth. Or better yet, make your own using fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and water.
- Skip the cream in pureed soups. Roast vegetables first before pureeing, and then puree alone, like in my Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup, or use low-fat plain or Greek yogurt or lite silken tofu for added protein and less fat.
- Use lean meats like skinless chicken breast, lean ground beef and ground turkey breast.
- Add beans for added protein and fiber. Look for no-salt-added canned beans (Eden brand makes them), and if you can’t find them, be sure to rinse other canned varieties.