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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

Better Nutrition: Have a Hearty Winter Soup

Soup is an easy choice when the temperature drops, but hidden fat and calories can be tough on your diet. Here's how to ladle up without filling out.

A hearty bowl of soup is likely to hit the spot when you need something to shake off the cold -- or just to get through the first 24 hours following dental work. But not all soups are created equal. Follow these simple rules to a satisfying, healthy starter or entrée.

1. Try miso or minestrone before a meal. 
If you’re watching your weight -- and who isn’t? -- have a broth-based soup, like minestrone or Japanese miso, before your main course. Studies show that this simple step can cut calorie intake at a meal by 20 percent.
2. Beware of canned soups.
Canned soups are notorious for their high sodium content: Some contain close to 1,000 milligrams for a 1-cup serving, or almost half the recommended daily amount! Guard against high blood pressure and heart problems by choosing reduced-sodium or low-sodium varieties. Federal guidelines require that any food with a healthy claim does not exceed 480 mg of sodium per serving, but that's still high: Instead, aim for 200 mg or less.
3. Get your toppings on the side. 
In restaurants, soups are often topped off with bacon, sour cream, guacamole, cheddar cheese and/or croutons, all of which pile on fat and calories. Ask for your soup without the garnishes, or get them on the side and sprinkle on a portion. At home, try a handful of popcorn on top for added crunch without the calorie toll.
4. Steer clear of cream-based soups. 
Cream of anything adds about 100 calories per cup, so while it may seem like a good way to get in some vegetables, think again. Other high-fat popular restaurant soups include lobster bisque, New England clam chowder and gumbo. The good news is you can modify these recipes at home using low-fat or nonfat milk to keep the fat and calories to a minimum.

About the Writer

Densie Webb is a registered dietitian and the author of The Dish: On Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous. She frequently writes for Completely You.

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