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Mmm, mmm, great!

As the days grow shorter, nothing says comfort food like a steaming crock of savory, homemade soup. A terrific and easy way to improve your family’s diet, soup can provide a filling, yet low-calorie meal that packs a lot of nutrients, protein, vitamins and more into one pot. Simmering your own soup requires little or no cooking oil, and you can control the fat and sodium content. Add plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fiber-rich beans and season with herbs and spices. If you prefer heartier versions, use lean meats, poultry or seafood, rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. For a souper supper, tryone of these healthy recipes and round out the meal with whole-grain bread.

Shrimp gumbo

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced fresh okra (about 1 lb.) or 10-oz. package frozen, no-salt-added sliced okra
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced or 11/2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth (homemade or commercial low-sodium variety)
  • 141/2-oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 lb. fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 drops red hot-pepper sauce

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook flour for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Heat oil in a large nonstick stockpot over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pot. When oil is hot, sauté okra for 10 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and pepper. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour, broth, tomatoes and bay leaf. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice using package directions, omitting salt and margarine. Set aside. Add shrimp to okra mixture. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until shrimp is done (it turns pink and opaque). Don’t overcook, or shrimp will become rubbery. Remove bay leaf. Stir in salt and hot-pepper sauce. Put 1/2 cup cooked rice in each soup bowl. Ladle gumbo over rice.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 358 calories, 22 g protein, 59 g carbohydrates, 135 mg cholesterol, 3 g total fat (1 g saturated, 1 g polyunsaturated, 1 g monounsaturated), 4 g fiber, 335 mg sodium

Minestrone

  • 1 cup dried navy beans, sorted for stones and rinsed (about 8 oz.), or 15-oz. can
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 11/2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, including leaves, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped, or 1 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and cubed, or 15-oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 tsp. pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat dried pasta (shells or elbow macaroni)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 medium clove garlic, whole, or 1/2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 cups water (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Cook navy beans using package instructions and drain. Or, drain and rinse canned beans. Heat stockpot over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom of pot. When oil is hot, add onion, carrots, celery and 2 cloves garlic. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add water, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add navy beans, green beans, pasta, basil and 1 clove garlic. Add 1 to 2 cups water if soup is too thick. Heat through. Slightly mash soup ingredients with a potato masher to help thicken soup. Simmer for 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle each serving with parmesan.

*The combination of vegetables can be different each time you make the soup.

Serves 10.

Per serving: 158 calories, 7 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 1 mg cholesterol, 2 g total fat (1 g saturated, 0 g polyunsaturated, 1 g monounsaturated), 6 g fiber, 51 mg sodium

Spinach pasta soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth (homemade or commercial low-sodium variety)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1/4 cup orzo or pastina
  • 6 cups chopped fresh spinach, leaves only, patted dry (about 8 oz.) or 1/2 of 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (about 2)
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine broth, water, tomato paste and lemon zest. Whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil. Stir in pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Stir in spinach and green onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, stir in pepper and salt.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 95 calories, 4 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 1 g total fat (0 g saturated, 0 g polyunsaturated, 0 g monounsaturated), 3 g fiber, 222 mg sodium

Chicken, greens and potato soup

  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 21/2 cups chicken broth (homemade or commercial low-sodium variety)
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 medium leek, sliced (white part only) (about 1 cup), or 9 green onions, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced, or 2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 12-oz. can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1/2 10 oz. package no-salt-added frozen mustard greens or chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 tsp. snipped fresh dillweed or 1/4 tsp. dried, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

In a Dutch oven, combine potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until tender. Don’t drain. Let cool slightly, then purée in a food processor or blender. Set aside. Wipe Dutch oven with paper towels. Spray with vegetable oil spray. Sauté leek over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, stirring often. Stir potato mixture and remaining ingredients into Dutch oven. Cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 265 calories, 24 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 42 mg cholesterol, 2 g total fat (1 g saturated, 1 g polyunsaturated, 1 g monounsaturated), 3 g fiber, 302 mg sodium

Recipes reprinted with permissionfrom The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 25th Anniversary Edition, © 2001 Clarkson Potter Publishers.