Winter's here, and so is comfort food.
But there's a stymieing myth that pervades the landscape about what some consider the 'ultimate' comfort food… "Too hard to make at home, takes too much time, something your grandma did but you never learned how or don't have time for…"
Allow me to reveal a closely held secret.
It's easy, economical, and invigorating – and is not rocket science.
The Best Food to Chase the Chills Away
What tastes better than coming home on a bitterly cold day to relax with a steaming hot bowl of delicious homemade soup?
It may not be 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' – but it is chicken soup for the body. For your body. For your health. A great way to chase the chills away.
Versatile, flavorful, easily digested… So many benefits.
Does Eating Soup Promote Weight Loss?
Soup can be a very quick dinner, or an appetizer which may quench your desire and consumption of higher calorie entrees. Many claim soup can promote weight loss.
A leading PhD is one of them. Conducting research at a well-known university, she found that students who ate chicken and rice soup instead of chicken and rice casserole, consumed less calories and still reported being equally satiated.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends broth-based soups to replace dry snacks like crackers and chips, because they fill you up with more nutrients and less calories.
Soup may not cause you to magically lose weight, but it does have the power to help you eat less food and consume more nutrients – provided you choose the right kinds of soups.
How Soup Boosts Your Nutritional Status
Soup differs as wildly in nutritional content as it does in varieties.
You can consume low-calorie soups like vegetable soup, or high-calorie ones like chowders – and a host of options in between.
Clear, broth-based soup usually has lower fat and higher vitamin content than cream-based soups do. For example, one cup of mushroom bisque soup typically has a staggering 400 calories compared to one cup of broth based minestrone at 112 calories.
Apply a similar principle and eat a bowl of soup as an entire meal, which incidentally, is an easy meal. The soup's liquid has more volume than a 3-oz. steak, so your stomach feels more satiated than it does with steak. (And you've eaten a fraction of the calories.)
Also, the standard daily recommendation of veggies and fruit is 8 or more servings per day, which most people do not consume. That's 4½ cups.
Soup lends itself well to adding a wide variety of veggies, or even juicing them and using them as your broth base. It's very easy to throw some spinach, kale, or sea veggies into your soup in the last moments before serving, to spruce up its nutrient content.
Adding vegetables and certain beans can give you vitamins A and C, potassium, folate and fiber. Carrots add beta carotene, and tomatoes add lycopene. Meat, chicken, and fish obviously add protein – an especially important element in soup served as a main dish.
You may find that you're able to 'hide' nutrients in soup for children (of all ages) who are picky eaters – a sneaky way to boost their nutrient intake.
Primary Nutritional Principles to Consider with Soup
Principle #1: The clearer the soup, the fewer the calories.
Principle #2: The calories in your soup should come from the solid food in the broth, not from the liquid portion of the soup.
Principle #3: Adding copious amounts of vegetables boosts vitamin content and can sneak into the mouths of picky eaters.
Principle #4: Eating soup either as an appetizer or a main dish can help promote weight loss, especially if eating vegetable-laden, broth based soups – and can make you feel satisfied with less calories.
And another big benefit…
The Varieties Are Endless…
Soup lends itself to your creativity, budget, personal taste, and more. When you see a soup recipe, you can nearly always substitute a different vegetable for a listed one. So, you say you hate cauliflower?
Add broccoli instead. No big deal.
Substitution and creativity can go far with soups. This also works when you're half way done and discover you're missing an ingredient. No need to run to the store… just substitute something else.
By the same token, if you have half a refrigerator of leftovers to use up but not enough to serve a 'real meal,' combine them and make them into soup… and make a meal of it. You may have just saved $10 or $20 of food that's otherwise ignored until it's spoiled, throwing your hard earned money down the drain along with the food.
Some people even keep a container in their freezer just to stash leftovers, and when the container is full, they add it to broth and voila – they have homemade soup. And no leftover waste.
Another way to save – especially suited to busy people – is to make a large pot of soup on the weekend, freeze part of it for another week, and use the remainder for a couple dinners and lunches for the upcoming week. It eliminates the temptation to go out and buy fast food because there's nothing ready.
So your wallet benefits from the savings, and your health benefits from healthier eating.
To save even more, you can make your own broth. It's not hard, and isn't as time consuming as you've been led to believe. You can experiment and personalize it to what you and your family enjoy. It creates a wonderful aroma as it cooks too.
Basic Meat Broth, As Easy as 1, 2, 3…
Thaw 2-3 pounds of beef soup bones or shanks, or ham shank, or a whole chicken with bones. Add a gallon or more of filtered water, 1½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1-2 bay leaves.
Season with your choice of the following (or follow your own inclination): garlic cloves, carrots, celery, onion, leeks, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, sage. Adding ¼ to ½ c. of vinegar or cooking wine can help pull minerals out of the meat bones into the broth.
Cover and simmer 2-3 hours. Remove the meat, debone, and put the meat pieces back in the broth. Refrigerate overnight. Before adding veggies the next day, skim unwanted fat off the top and discard. Add as many veggies as you choose.
[Note: You can make a vegetarian version of same by skipping the meat step and just adding the vegetables to the water, and simmer at least an hour.]
This can easily be done in an evening, letting it simmer while you do other things. It only takes a few minutes of actual prep time.
Your Ingredient Choices Make the Difference Between Mediocre and Great
You likely already know the difference between a small boutique restaurant that uses quality ingredients from local and organic farmers, and large chain restaurants where pre-packaged and reheated food is the norm. If you've ever eaten at one after the other, the hands-down winner is the one with the freshest ingredients prepared for you that day.
Follow suit when selecting ingredients for your soup. My advice is to purchase as much of your food as possible from local and or