Many of my clients tell me how much they like having soup for lunch in the colder months, but most of the time, they name off various brands of soups bought at the store. Don’t get me wrong: many commercial soups are great options for the calorie conscious. The problem with canned soups, of course, is the sodium content. Some products have an excess of 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. To my way of thinking, this is far too much salt for one simple food item. So while it’s easy to turn to grocery store shelves for your lunchtime soup, consider making your own soup.
The beauty of homemade soup is that you can literally take any basic soup recipe and modify it based on ingredients you have on hand. You can make adjustments and get the sodium content reduced without foregoing good taste. Most soups start with a stock, broth, or a vegetable base. You can make your own stock if you have the time, but starting with a ready made broth can cut down on preparation time. If you buy ready made soup broth, I recommend that you read the labels carefully. Regular broth will make your homemade version of soup just as high in sodium as canned soup. The low sodium versions of broth have sodium too! I found that most of the “low sodium” brands of broth had close to 500 mg. sodium per serving. This is still too much if you are sodium conscious. I found several organic low sodium stocks with just 140 mg. per serving, so it pays to look around.
If you want to try making homemade soup for your lunches, here’s an idea: make one batch pot of a different soup every week. Keep enough of the soup on hand for one or two meals, and then freeze the rest in smaller containers, preferably 1-2 portion containers. If you make a different kind of soup each week, you will soon have a “selection”of different soups in your freezer that you can choose from for a quick lunch or dinner meal. Take a single serving of frozen soup to work and you’ll have a nice healthful meal ready to heat up.
Here is my favorite vegetable soup recipe:
Vegetable Barley Soup
2 Tb. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
12 oz. fresh mushrooms chopped
1/2 cup barley (use pearl or hulless barley)
6 cups low sodium beef, chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2-3 cups chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard
Heat oil in large pot and sauté onions and carrots until tender. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add barley, low sodium broth and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer until barley is done. (Pearl barley takes about 40 minutes; hulless barley takes about 60 minutes to cook). Add chopped greens and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serves 6.