Tips for healthier soups_cropped3

Soup Sunday: Tips for healthier soups

We all know that I’m partial to a bowl of soup – just check out the ever-growing Soup Sunday archives if you need convincing. I love how quick, easy and cheap soup can be to make and a steaming hot bowl can be just the thing to keep the Winter chill at bay on a cold night (or warm you up on your lunch break).

But when it comes to nutrition, not all soups are created equal. While the best soups are packed full of nutrient and fibre rich vegetables, it’s not hard for your belly-warming bowl of soup to turn belly-expanding if you’re not careful, not to mention high in unhealthy sodium. On the other hand, some soups lack real substance and may leave you heading back to the kitchen with an empty feeling in your stomach soon after – reaching for a second meal or an extra serve of dessert to compensate. A good soup is a meal in itself, so don’t settle for an unsatisfying bowl of broth.

Tips for healthier soups

Follow these tips to keep your soups healthy, nourishing and satisfying:

  • Cram in those vegetables - Soup is a great way to get in heaps of vegetables. Aim for at least 3 vegetable serves per bowl of soup to give yourself a decent chunk of your 5-6 serves for the day. A serve of vegetables is 75g, so for a soup to serve 4 people, try to get 12 serves of vegetables in the pot – that’s 900g of veg! See the table below for a handy reference. If you really struggle to get your veggies into other meals, aim for 5 serves of vegetables per serve so you’re covered for your daily vegetable intake with one delicious bowl of soup.
How much veg do you need in the pot?
Vegetable serves:
Recipe serves: 3 veg 4 veg 5 veg
4 ppl 0.9kg 1.2kg 1.5kg
6 ppl 1.35kg 1.8kg 2.25kg
8 ppl 1.8kg 2.4kg 3kg
  • Go for a rainbow  - Different coloured vegetables have different types of nutrients, so aim to have as much colour in the bowl as possible.
  • Add some carbs - They might get a bit of a bad rap in some dieting circles, but the truth is we need some carbohydrates. They are the preferred source of energy for the body and the only source of energy the brain can use easily, so cutting them out all together may leave you feeling lethargic and unfocused. Go for good quality, low-GI carb sources such as wholegrain bread (eg. toasted croutons or a roll), long grain rice, barley, lentils, risoni (rice shaped pasta) or sweet potato.
  • Add a little protein - Go for lean sources such as fish, beef strips or skinless chicken or try some vegetarian sources for something different like tofu, lentils, nuts or even a poached egg. Keep it to no more than 100g per serve to make sure you’re getting your protein while leaving plenty of room for those nutrient rich vegetables.
  • Go easy on the salt - Avoid your homemade soup having sodium levels to rival canned varieties by using low salt stock and cramming in more flavour with herbs and spices
  • Skip the high kJ accompaniments - Ditch the cream, fatty garlic bread, fried croutons, butter, full fat cheese, greasy bacon and sausages and opt for some healthier swaps from the table below to lighten up your favourite soup recipes.

Healthier soup swaps:

Instead of this: Try this:
Stock Reduced salt stock and lots of herbs and spices.
Cream In cream based soups – light evaporated milk is a great alternative. As a garnish – low fat natural yoghurt adds creaminess without the concentrated kJ.
Garlic bread Make your own with  wholegrain bread or serve with toast.
Fried croutons Bake your own croutons by spraying cubes of multigrain bread lightly with oil spray and baking in the oven until crispy.
Butter Go for healthier fats such as olive, canola or peanut oil.
Full fat cheese Low fat versions will help you cut down on the kJ. Try some parmesan – a little goes a long way, or add a dollop of low fat ricotta or cottage cheese.
Greasy bacon Use shortcut bacon rashers and trim off all rind and fat. Half a rasher per serve is enough to add flavour without too much kJ or fat.


What’s your favourite healthy soup recipe? Share it with everyone in the comments below!

What do you think?