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How to make soup a meal

Fresh vegetable soup

With soups appearing more on our tables in cooler weather, why not have them serve double duty as the full meal? Soups can be quicker to prepare than other main courses; one pot makes cooking and clean-up a snap. They’re warming, filling, lower in calories than many other options and invariably nutrient-rich (all those vitamins and minerals are retained—and then consumed—as they simmer right into the broth).

Here’s how to make a hearty soup that really satisfies, ensuring you won’t be grazing through the refrigerator an hour after dinner.

Use a substantial base. It’s fine to use water as your soup base depending on the recipe, of course—but adding an extra dimension with broth or non-dairy milk will render the soup more filling and will intensify the existing flavors.

Include protein-rich ingredients. For the soup to satisfy, you’ll need a full serving of protein right there in the bowl.  Adding beans or legumes (chickpeas and lentils are particularly protein rich) or pureed nuts or seeds (cashews or hemp seeds work beautifully and add creaminess, too) is a great way to up the protein quotient.

Don’t forget grains. Soups containing grains are more filling and more nutritious. Grains offer high fiber and have been shown to promote heart health as well. It’s worth saving one of your grain servings for your bowl of broth or stock.

Love those veggies!  Soup is the perfect vehicle for vegetables, keeping all their fiber and nutrients intact—and a great way to include those uber-healthy varieties you might not appreciate in other dishes.

Include your bread right in the bowl. Rather than slather a slice of bread with butter or margarine on the side, add it right into the soup itself, or use pasta instead of grains. Dumplings, croutons or big hunks of sourdough can enhance the appeal of an otherwise “plain” soup.

Forget fat-free. If your meal-in-a-bowl will sustain you, this is no time to fear fat. For balanced nutrition, we need all three macronutrients: carbs (e.g., veggies and whole grains), protein and fat.  Healthy fats increase creaminess, enhance the mouth feel, and intensify the flavor of any soup.  Use it to sauté onions, mixed with a pesto garnish, or via nuts blended into the base for silky, creamy soups.

There’s nothing like a steaming bowl to help you face the winter weather—especially when it’s got all the nourishment you need!

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By: Ricki Heller

Ricki Heller is a whole foods chef, TV personality and author of the Canadian bestseller Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed on Ellen DeGeneres’ website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She has appeared on Canada AM, Breakfast Television and appears regularly to discuss healthy eating on Rogers’ Daytime and In the Know. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where she chronicles her ongoing challenges with candida, offers entertaining anecdotes about life, shares sugar-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes and provides a platform for her two chatty lab-border collie cross dogs, Elsie and Chaser. She lives near Toronto with her husband and two “girls.”