Soups: The salads of winter

Set of three soups: Russian saltwort, French mushroom and cheese cream soup with croutons. Top view on rustic wood

Image: Milkos/

Are you worried about gaining weight this winter? What, with all the hearty winter dishes we tend to consume, the less time spent outdoors and more time snuggled up on the couch, it’s easy to see where the risk of those extra winter kilos comes from.

But how can you avoid it?

The answer, our dear readers, is in the soup! Soups are an easy way to maximise your veggie intake and consume a low-calorie meal. Most of us tend to gravitate away from those light summer salads into hearty meals like roast dinners, pastas and pies in winter, but that doesn’t mean your veggies have to disappear altogether.

Soups are the salads of winter time. To keep your caloric intake (and waistline) under control this year, you just need to get soup savvy.

Soups for weight loss

It’s no secret that consuming low energy foods is helpful when it comes to weight loss. However, these foods often appear in our minds as vegetables and salads—aka rabbit food—where you will feel starving constantly and struggle through deprivation to reduce your weight. Well, healthy low energy food does not have to mean starvation.

Soups provide a warm, satisfying meal which can fill you up, but still come within your calorie budget. How? You might ask. I always feel hungry after soup. You might need to look at your ingredients.

Energy density in food is key to long-term weight management. A study published in the journal Obesity in 2005 compared participants consuming two low energy-dense meals (and yes, soups were actually used in the research) to participants consuming equal calories of energy-dense foods (two high-calorie snacks).

They found that the group consuming low energy foods (soups) led to a 50% greater weight loss than the group consuming the same calories per day in energy-dense foods. This goes to show that the quality of calories is just as important as the amount you consume and that soups are a great way to include quality calories!

So, if you’re watching your weight this winter, whipping up a batch of soup might be your answer.

The basic recipe

For those with a soup phobia, or those who doubt their kitchen skills, rest easy. There’s very little that can go wrong with making soup. The basic ingredients include:

  • The base – usually a stock of some kind, we like the Massel brand because it contains less salt than others. You may choose to create your own broth by simmering vegetables and/or meat/chicken in a pot of water and then sieving it into a liquid.
  • Veggies – pack in as many as you can, but classic soup veggies include onion, parsnips, sweet potatoes, swedes, celery, carrot, turnips, pumpkin etc.
  • Protein – this could be chicken, beef, lamb or lentils/legumes. Using legumes when making soups helps to create a thick hearty texture and, being extremely low GI, they help to fill you up and leave you satisfied.
  • Wholegrains – this component can be optional. If you choose to have bread with your soup, its best to omit grains as you might be doubling up on carbohydrate serves. Wholegrains that go nicely in soups include barley, brown rice or quinoa.

Normally the stock adds plenty of flavour but if you want to spice things up try adding garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme, sage or other herbs and spices. So much variety!

5 quick, satisfying soup ideas

Warm up and lose weight this winter with these satisfying soups.

  1. Lentil and Carrot Soup with Thyme: onion, garlic, lentils, carrots, thyme, potato, pepper and chicken stock.
  2. Chicken, Barley & Vegetable Soup: onion, celery, carrots, pumpkin, skinless chicken, pearl barley, chicken stock, pepper and parsley.
  3. Spicy Mexican Bean Soup: capsicum, garlic, vegetable stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, chilli powder, oregano and red kidney beans.
  4. Minestrone Soup: onion, fennel, garlic, celery, carrots, kale, parsley, passata (tomato puree), borlotti beans, pepper and water as stock.
  5. Thai Pumpkin, Red Lentil & Coconut Soup: onion, chilli, pumpkin, carrots, red lentils, vegetable stock, coconut milk, coriander, ginger and turmeric.

The pitfalls: where soups can go wrong

  • High salt stock. Look for low sodium stocks and check the labels for something less than 420 mg sodium per 100g.
  • Creamy soups. These tend to have a higher fat content, meaning higher energy density.
  • Missing ingredients. If you are still hungry after consuming soups, you have likely skipped a component e.g. lacking legumes (protein/fibre) or no grains.
  • Too many ingredients. If you have doubled up with ingredients you may have over-done it. For example, if you have made a soup with barley and then serving it with a wholegrain bread roll, you have one too many serves of carbs.

So fill up, not out, this winter by getting your soup on! The soup Nazis might say, ‘No soup for you!’ but we say soup for everybody!

Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.

To receive a free copy of Three Things that Really Matter (in retirement) sign up here for the weekly email.

Category: Physical Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Retire Notes