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By Jean Stork,
A bowl of steaming hot soup ladled from a simmering pot turns the coldest winter day into a cozy, calm retreat. More importantly, soups can be a good source of nutrition.
Most soups are made with healthy ingredients such as vegetables, grains, dried beans, lean meats, seafood and milk. According to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan*, created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), these ingredients can help reduce blood pressure.
The challenge is finding a recipe that is low in salt and fat. Canned tomatoes, beans and broth are the basis for many soup recipes. But canned foods are generally high in salt (sodium). Also, many soups are creamy and high in fat.
Here are some tips for making healthy soups without sacrificing flavor and texture.
It's easy to play up the flavor of vegetables with these tips:
Line a baking pan with foil and brush with a thin layer of canola oil. Add vegetables and stir to coat them with the oil. (Oil adds flavor, encourages browning and keeps the vegetables moist.) Spread vegetables into a single layer. Bake at 400° for 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir occasionally. Add to soup as directed.
Slowly cook vegetables over high heat in a small amount of canola or olive oil without letting them brown. Add to soup as directed.
If the recipe calls for vegetables to be cooked in water or broth, start with the vegetables and liquid chilled. Cook as directed.
Use the right type and amount of herbs and spices:
- Be sure to follow your recipe exactly because flavors change during the cooking process. Season to your taste after cooking.
- To correct acidity of a tomato-based soup, add a little sugar. If a soup tastes too salty, peel a potato, simmer in the soup for 20 minutes and remove. It will absorb some of the salt.
- Be aware that lemon pepper contains sodium.
- Salt substitutes are available, but they often contain potassium salts and are not suitable for those on potassium-restricted diets. Check with a doctor before using salt substitutes.
- Soup that sits in the refrigerator overnight will taste even better the next day once its flavors have had a chance to blend.
Here are some healthy ways to reduce fat in a soup recipe:
- Replace cream with low-fat milk.
- Skim the white layer of fat that rises to the top of soup during refrigeration. If soup is to be eaten immediately, remove the surface fat with a paper towel, soup ladle or turkey baster.
- Use canola or olive oil instead of butter or Crisco™ when possible.
- Instead of using a white sauce to thicken soup, try a vegetable purée. Remove some of the cooked soup vegetables with a little broth from the pot and cool. Fill the blender about half-full and blend away.
To create your own soup from food in your kitchen:
- Use leftover meat, chicken or seafood.
- Keep the following ingredients on hand: onions, garlic, celery, peppers, low-fat and low-sodium broths, canned tomatoes, paste and sauce with no added salt, frozen vegetables, dried beans and lentils.
- DASH recommends broccoli, carrots, collard greens, green beans, peas, kale, lima beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
- Refer to a favorite cookbook to find a list of seasonings typically used to complement the flavor of the main ingredient in your soup. For example, salmon is often paired with dill; tomatoes with garlic, onion, basil and oregano.
1c cooked and drained vegetables or choice of meats.
(Keep 1c of cooking liquid to be used as liquid for the soup.)
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1c low-fat milk
Herbs and spices to taste
1. Allow vegetables and/or meat to cool before handling to avoid burning yourself.
2. Chop cooked vegetables and/or choice of meat.
3. Sauce: Heat oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add flour and stir for 5 minutes. The mixture should only lightly brown. Slowly add milk, while stirring to avoid lumps. Cook for 3 minutes. Add broth. Add herbs and spices to taste.
Tomato Bean Soup
1 tsp olive oil
1/2c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2c cooked and drained white beans
1 (14 1/2 oz) can low sodium crushed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp pepper
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
2. Add onion and garlic.
3. Sauté for three minutes.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients.
5. Simmer with the lid partially on for at least 1/2 hour.
6. If too much liquid evaporates, add water.
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