Hearty and Healthy Soups

altAutumn is a great time of year for incorporating more soups and stews into your meal plan. Soups are an easy way to eat healthy, balanced and filling meals. Soups can include a good mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats.

Last December I wrote a blog post about Fennel (click the link) in which I provided a recipe for one of my favorite soups. This soup uses lots of vegetables, beans as a protein, and olive oil for a healthy fat.
Vegetable soups are simple and easy to make. Just throw several types of your favorite vegetables into a pot with some water and any seasonings you enjoy (garlic, rosemary, thyme, basil or Italian seasoning are just a few that I like to use). Let the veggies simmer for about 20-30 minutes, and the soup is done. This time of year, pumpkin and squash are great vegetables to add to soups.
To make vegetable soups more balanced and hearty, add a cooked protein source like beans, lentils, chicken, fish or lean beef. If you want to incorporate a whole grain into your soup, try quinoa or barley. Just add this ingredient at the beginning of cooking with some extra water. Or you can eat a whole grain role or slice of bread with your soup for a good complex carbohydrate source.
To add a healthy fat to the soup, you can saute your vegetables in a small amount of olive oil before cooking. Similarly, you can add a tablespoon of pesto to your pot of soup–this adds a healthy fat as well as great flavor. Or you can top your soup with some chopped avocado if desired.
For those of us who are limited on time, try throwing some stew ingredients into a crock pot before work and then let it cook all day. I like to make a hearty beef stew by putting diced lean stew beef along with diced potatoes, onions, carrots and leeks into a crock pot with some water. I usually add some herbs like rosemary and thyme as well as salt and pepper to give it some flavor, and then I let it cook all day. There’s nothing better than coming home from a day’s work and having a hot, hearty meal ready to eat.
For more information about making healthy soups and stews, check out this article (click the link).
So the next time you’re wondering what to make for dinner, try a healthy and hearty soup.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD