Soup is winter’s perfect comfort food

Chronicle Media


 It’s soup season and the options are plentiful. Whether eaten as an entrée or appetizer, soup is comfort food that provides energy and nutrition to endure the winter weather.

“The combination of warm fluid, vegetables and protein provides a bundle of nutrients and facilitates hydration,” said Laura Barr, nutrition and wellness educator, University of Illinois Extension. “A hearty soup, green salad and crunchy whole grain bread make a great meal, and soup before a meal satisfies, leaving one less inclined to overeat during the main course.”

Barr recommends starting with a low-sodium stock, and then adding a lean protein and your favorite vegetables. Lean protein options include chicken and seafood, and vegetarian sources can be legumes, beans or even tofu.

“If you choose store-bought stock, go for the low-sodium options. If you make your own, you have control over the salt content,” said Barr. “Stock is the liquid strained after cooking seasoned meat, vegetables or fish. Brown stock is made by first browning beef, meat, chicken bones or vegetables, and then adding liquid. This caramelizes the product, which enhances the flavor and color. The darker the color, the more flavor.”

If your recipe includes noodles or rice, choose whole grain noodles or brown rice. Some options may even have added protein or Omega-3 fatty acids.

“If purchasing canned or frozen soups, pay attention to labels,” Barr said. “Keep sodium under 200 mg per serving (8 ounces), and watch for added sugars and saturated fats. Consider those options a ‘sometimes food.’”

For example, cream-based soups are high in saturated fats. Barr recommends not eating them too often, and to consider preparing them with 2-percent or whole milk instead of cream. The exception would be if you are under the supervision of a medical team, then always follow that dietary plan, said Barr.

“Soup can be a nutritional and tasty win-win, no matter what the season. This winter, grab a spoon and enjoy!”

For some savory soup recipes from U of I Extension, like Fresh Corn-Vegetable Chowder and Curried Red Lentil Soup, visit

University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.  For more information on University of Illinois Extension programs in your county, visit


Fresh Corn and Vegetable Chowder

Fresh Corn and Vegetable Chowder

2 strips low sodium turkey bacon, chopped

1 Tablespoon trans-fat free margarine

1 cup chopped onion

1⁄2 cup chopped celery

1 large garlic clove, minced

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups water

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 bay leaf

4 ears fresh corn, cut off ear or 2 3⁄4 cup frozen

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 cup fat-free half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large stockpot, heat bacon and cook 3-4 minutes. Add margarine, stirring until melted.
  2. Add onion, celery, garlic and thyme. Cook until veggies begin to soften.
  3. Add water, potatoes and bay leaf. Cover, and simmer until potatoes are partially cooked.
  4. Add corn and zucchini and simmer an additional 8-10 minutes until all vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until half of it is smooth.

  1. Add half and half, salt and pepper. Cook until just heated through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 150 calories, 3 grams fat, 230 milligrams sodium, 28 grams carbohydrate, 3  grams fiber, 5 grams protein

Curried Red Lentils soup

Curried Red Lentils

2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed

1 yellow onion, diced

1-2 Tbs olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

2 Tbs curry powder

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 cups water

Fresh cilantro for garnish Redbud flowers (optional)

  1. Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until soft, ~5 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add ginger and spices, stir and cook 1 minute more. 2. Add lentils, broth and water then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils have completely broken down. Add additional water if necessary. It should be soft and creamy. 3. Serve with rice or naan and garnish with cilantro and redbud flowers if available. Nutrition analysis per serving: not provided.






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