Soup is on!

Make soup for a healthy option on cold winter days.

Hot soup on a cold winter day can warm the soul as well as the body. Soup, from a spicy vegetable to a hearty split pea, can be the center of a healthy, easy meal. Many soups use low-cost vegetables that are available throughout the year.

Michigan State University Extension suggests the following tips to boost nutrition, trim the fat or salt and to save time when preparing your family’s favorite soups.

To boost nutrition try any of the following:

  • Use barley, brown rice or other whole grains in soups to add fiber.
  • Add extra vegetables such as carrots, peas, turnips, onions, spinach and peppers for vitamins, minerals, fiber and flavor.
  • Add dried beans and peas such as kidney beans, lentils, split peas or black beans to soups to boost fiber. Or, better yet, make dried beans and peas the main ingredient in your soup. Keep in mind that most dried beans take a lot of time to cook.

To trim fat and salt you can:

  • Use lean meats such as lean ham, round steak, turkey or chicken breast in place of fattier alternatives such as ham bone.
  • Cool soups after cooking and remove the layer of fat that rises to the surface before reheating and serving the soup.
  • Use non-fat, evaporated skim milk in place of cream when preparing cream soups.
  • Choose low-salt canned broth or canned soups in place of regular canned broth or soup.
  • Season soups with herbs such as garlic and onion powders, thyme, oregano and red pepper. Then omit or reduce the salt called for in the recipe.

A few tips for saving time:

  • Use canned dry beans or peas in place of beans or peas that need to be pre-soaked or cooked for a long time.
  • Cook a large batch of dried beans when you have the time. Then freeze small portions of these beans in freezer bags and use the smaller portions to add fiber to soups you make in the future.
  • Use frozen or canned pre-cut vegetables in place of fresh vegetables that need to be cleaned and chopped.
  • Use canned tomatoes seasoned with onions, garlic or chili peppers in place of chopping fresh tomatoes and onions, garlic or peppers.
  • Use low-sodium canned broth instead of preparing broth from scratch.
  • On a day when you have time to do other things while the soup is simmering, prepare a slow-cooking soup that can be used for at least two meals. Then refrigerate or freeze leftover soup in small, shallow containers and reheat on a busy day. Store soup in the refrigerator (at a safe temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit) if you will be eating it within two days. Frozen soup can usually be stored safely in the freezer (at a temperature of 0 degree) for two to three months.

Enjoy making your healthy soup to stay warm this winter.

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