5 Healthy Swaps to Use in Soup, Stew and Chili

5 Healthy Swaps to Use in Soup, Stew and Chili

by Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

What are most popular food choices when you’re feeling under the weather or when the weather itself isn’t so hot? Soups, stews and chilis are not only therapeutic and warming to our bodies and souls, but they also help keep us hydrated in colder weather. Soup is a convenient meal for any season and it’s easily customizable based on seasonal produce and personal food preferences. Soups and chilis are a wonderful way to stay healthy during the colder months by loading them up with nutrient-rich vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.

However, soups, stews and chilis can be very high in sodium, fat and calories. This can promote weight gain and high blood pressure, thus increasing risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Try these five swaps to keep soups, stews and chilis nutritious and delicious.

1. Lower the sodium

Premade soups bought at the store can have very high sodium content, some in excess of 1,000 mg. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults and those with high blood pressure. Preparing soup at home rather than buying it premade allows us to control how much sodium we put in our soups, stews and chilis. Do this whenever possible.

When shopping for soup ingredients, look for No Added Salt or Low Sodium broth and canned vegetables such as diced tomatoes and beans. When the liquid from the can is not being used, drain and rinse off any canned products to reduce the sodium by about 40%. Another salt saver is to choose “No Salt” or low sodium seasoning packets, or use fresh herbs and spices for flavor rather than salt. Try these examples of low sodium soups and chilis:

Low Salt White Bean Soup

Quick Mediterranean Chili

Chicken, Vegetable and Barley Soup

2. Keep the protein lean

Ground beef is commonly used in soups, stews and chilis, but is higher in saturated fat. Look for 90% lean or above, or cuts of beef that have the words “loin” or “round” in the name for lower saturated fat and calories. Another healthy swap is to try ground bison like this Bison Black Bean Chili or ground turkey like this Slow Cooker Turkey, Spinach and White Bean Soup. If you’re short on time, use white meat without the skin from a precooked rotisserie chicken. For a plant-based soup, stew or chili, bump up the protein without the fat and calories by adding tofu or a variety of beans like in this Black Bean and Vegetable Soup.

3. Go for whole grains

Choosing whole grains in a soup, stew, or chili can bulk up the texture and nutrition with added fiber in soups, stews and chilis. Try using whole wheat pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta rather than refined pasta. Brown rice, wild rice or quinoa are also healthy choices. For heartier soups try barley or wheat berries.

4. Swap the toppings

Traditional toppings for soup and chili typically include high fat and calorie foods such as cheese, chips and sour cream. Try swapping sour cream for plain nonfat Greek yogurt or avocados. Use fresh herbs like cilantro and a squeeze of citrus to flavor as well. Swap corn chips or tortilla chips for whole grain chips or try pumpkin or sunflower seeds for a healthy fat boost with that crunch.

5. Trim the fat

Creamy soups tend to be higher in calories and fat due to the use of heavy cream. Try substituting reduced fat, skim milk or half-and-half to add creaminess without the fat and calories. Plant-based milks can also be used. Reduced fat coconut milk is a comparable choice for heavy cream. Another option is to use pureed vegetables like cauliflower to get that creamy texture we are looking for. This is a great option for adding more nutrients to the dish.

Making a few changes to our soup, stew and chili recipes can help keep them a healthy part of our fall and winter menus. Lowering sodium and fat, choosing whole grains, lean proteins, and including plenty of vegetables are all smart swaps to make.

For more personalized nutrition guidance make a telenutrition appointment with a Kroger Dietitian.

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