Soups can be a key component of a weight-loss eating regimen.
Losing weight can be a matter of straightforward math: Consume fewer calories than you expend, and the pounds should drop. But not all calories are created equal, says Jennifer Tyler Lee, a self-trained home cook and healthy eating advocate based in San Francisco. Tyler Lee, who earned a Nutrition and Healthy Living certificate from Cornell University, is co-author of the book, “Half the Sugar, All the Love: A Family Cookbook.”
Certain soups are low in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats and high in fiber-rich vegetables — a combination that can make them part of a weight-loss regimen. “A low-carb, plant-forward diet can be effective for people looking to reduce weight,” Tyler Lee says. She notes that research suggests shifting away from saturated fats, sodium and added sugar while emphasizing healthy ingredients like vegetables and polyunsaturated fats can positively affect one’s health, plus help with weight loss.
“The trick is maintaining that way of eating, so it’s important to include recipes in your rotation that you and everyone in your family will enjoy,” she says. “Soups are a great way to do that.”
Eating soup can boost your intake of vegetables.
Many Americans don’t get enough vegetables on a daily basis. Eating soup is a good way to boost your intake of vegetables and beans, says Lise Gloede, a registered dietitian based in Arlington, Virginia. Consuming more veggies and beans in soup can “help keep your calories down for weight management,” Gloede says. Consuming soup several times per week can be a healthy, enjoyable way to keep your nutrition plan active, she says.
Here are nine strategies for eating soup for weight loss:
Avoid creamy soups.
Creamy soups are typically high in saturated fats, which can have more calories than clear broth options, Tyler Lee says. Higher levels of saturated fats are also associated with an increased risk of cardio-metabolic diseases — such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems (like heart attacks) and stroke — and unhealthy weight. It’s best to limit fats to 10% of your total daily calories. Some creamy soups, she notes, get up to 20% of their calories from saturated fats.
If you’re craving a creamy soup but want something healthy, there are options. For example, creamy cauliflower soup can be low in calories and saturated fats. It’s also a great way to boost your vegetable intake. Tyler Lee makes her version by sauteing leeks, celery and cauliflower with garlic and chili flakes to boost flavor. She purees the mixture with vegetable broth to make a creamy, plant-based soup that’s much lower in saturated fat than other cream-based options.
Eat clear and broth-based soups.
Clear and broth-based soups are definitely the way to go when you’re staying on track with your weight-loss goals because they have less fat and calories than creamy offerings, says Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian based in Chicago. She’s the author of “The Great Big Pumpkin Cookbook,” which includes recipes for pumpkin in soups, cakes, pancakes, dessert and hummus.
“A broth-based soup, even a small portion before a bigger meal, can help fill you up from the fiber-filled veggies and liquid, helping you eat less and make better nutrition choices during the meal itself,” she says. Broth-based soups also provide good protein and fiber.
These vegetables make a tasty addition to minestrone or broth-based soups:
— Green beans.
— Butternut squash.
— Kidney beans.
Load up your soups with non-starchy vegetables.
Veggies provide lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — substances that may protect your body from cancer by protecting healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals, says Sharon Priya Banta, a registered dietitian based in New York City.
Non-starchy vegetables contain little or no starch, and you can eat as much of them as you want, she says. These include:
Go easy on starchy vegetables.
Starchy vegetables should be limited to a half-cup per serving, because their starch content can increase blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain, Banta says.
Starchy veggies include:
— Artichoke hearts.
— Brussels sprouts.
— Bok choy.
— Green peas.
Go for high-protein ingredients.
Consuming soups that are high in protein may help to satiate you, which is good for weight loss, says Nicole Hopsecger, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
Use lean proteins such as:
Try bean soups.
Beans are packed with fiber and protein, which are a winning combination for weight loss because meals that contain both will keep you fuller for longer, Michalczyk says. That means you’ll be less likely to snack after the meal. One cup of black beans has 15 grams of protein and an equal amount of fiber, plus other vitamins and minerals.
You can make soup out of an array of beans, including:
— Black beans.
— Garbanzo beans.
— Pinto beans.
— White beans.
Dig into tasty, healthy vegetarian chili.
Vegetarian chili is a delicious cool weather favorite that can help you lose weight. This type of chili can be helpful for dropping pounds because it’s rich in legumes, which are high in fiber. That’s good for satiety. Fiber also promotes heart health and blood sugar control.
In addition to beans, ingredients for vegetarian chili recipes can include:
— Chili powder.
— Smoked paprika.
Enjoy the health benefits of fish and tomato soup.
Combining tomatoes and fish into one soup offers an array of health benefits, says Dr. Eudene Harry, medical director for the Oasis and Wellness and Rejuvenation Center based in Orlando, Florida.
Fish provides protein and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids (which are part of the membranes surrounding the body’s cells) provide an array of health benefits, including:
— Improved mood.
— Prevention of heart attack and strokes.
— Lowered cholesterol.
— Better blood flow to the brain.
For this soup, Harry suggests using vegetable broth and diced tomatoes from cans that don’t contain bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used in the lining of some food cans. Research suggests BPA could disrupt the body’s endocrine system. Harry advises using cans of diced tomatoes that are low in sodium. “(Diced tomatoes) provide hardiness to the soup while still providing the benefits of tomatoes,” she says. As for the fish, you can go with a milder choice like halibut, or salmon, which contains higher levels of omega-3s.
Prepare chicken (zucchini) noodle soup.
Chicken noodle soup is a longtime staple and a healthy option that provides fiber and protein. Michalczyk suggests trying it with noodles made of zucchini. “They’re a lower-carb option,” she says. “They add flavor and more fiber.” Zucchini noodles are available in many grocery stores and big-box outlets that sell food.
To recap, here are nine strategies for eating soup for weight loss:
— Avoid creamy soups.
— Eat clear and broth-based soups.
— Load up your soups with non-starchy vegetables.
— Go easy on starchy vegetables.
— Use high-protein ingredients.
— Try bean soups.
— Dig into tasty, healthy vegetarian chili.
— Enjoy the benefits of tomato and fish soup.
— Prepare chicken (zucchini) noodle soup.
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Update 01/28/21: This slideshow was previously published and has been updated with new information.