Fiftysomething Diet: 6 Steps to a Healthier Fall Soup

Our foolproof formula lets you cook and serve it in 30 minutes

With nights turning cooler, it’s the perfect time for soup suppers, those big pots of warming goodness that fill you up with little fuss.

Forget store-bought varieties that tend to taste like a salt lick and can raise your blood pressure. We’re talking about simple homemade soups that are easy on cleanup (one pot) and offer a world of big, bold flavors.

(MORE: Top Chefs’ Tips for the Late Summer Harvest)

Worried about spending too much time in the kitchen? Here’s our Fiftysomething formula that lets you simmer common pantry ingredients into satisfying soup in about 30 minutes. (Note: If you’re nervous about “winging it” with this loose six-step process, don’t worry. We’ve also provided links to step-by-step recipes from healthy cooking gurus Eating Well and Cooking Light.)

The Formula

1. Start with aromatics  Building flavor into any soup starts first by sauteeing aromatic vegetables in small amounts of healthy oils such as olive or canola. One chopped onion and a few tablespoons of oil in a soup pot is a perfect soup starter. If time permits, add other aromatics such as chopped carrots, celery and garlic. Saute just one, or all the aromatics, over medium heat for four to five minutes.

2. Toast a few spices  Next, stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of a favorite spice blend into the cooked aromatics and let the spices toast, over medium heat, for one to two minutes. Try a Mexican spice blend (chili powder, cumin and dried oregano) for chili-style soups. Or use curry powder or a curry spice blend (curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon) if you’re partial to Indian dishes like this Fall Vegetable Curry soup. The idea is to let spices toast into the oil to flavor the whole soup.

3. Add a low-salt broth  Once the aromatics and spices are done, add a quart (4 cups) of stock to the soup pot and bring it to a boil. Homemade chicken and vegetable stocks are tastier, but the convenience factor of store-bought stock is a plus for quick soups. Just be sure to scan nutrient fact panels of packaged broths to find varieties with at least one-third less sodium.

4. Stir in lots of vegetables  When the stock comes to a boil, stir in four cups (about one pound) of chopped assorted in-season vegetables. Choose from root vegetables like carrots and turnips. Or mix and match mild flavored fall favorites like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach and tomatoes. Steer clear of anything with too strong a taste (broccoli, Brussels sprouts) that might overpower other flavors. Sometimes you might want to focus on one favorite vegetable, like sweet potatoes, for a healthy version of Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque.

(MORE: 8 Underrated Vegetables With Huge Health Benefits)

5. Add small amounts of lean, quick-cook meats  Stir in meats, if you are using them, at the same time as vegetables so they have plenty of time to cook through. Best choices are small quantities (one half to one pound of meat per pot of soup) of chopped healthier cuts like turkey tenderloins, low-fat sausages, or boneless skinless chicken thighs. Chopped pork tenderloin is a good bet too as you’ll see with this healthy Pork, White Bean & Kale Soup. Or try this Turkey & Squash Soup. Once you’ve added the vegetables and meats of your choice, simmer soup for 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and go to step six.

(MORE: Fiftysomething Diet: 8 Great New Meat Alternatives)

6. Stir in some complex carbs  Boost the filling fiber of the soup you’re creating with a last minute addition of a cup of whole grains or legumes. To save time, opt for already cooked brown rice, wheat berries, canned beans or chickpeas, as in this Chickpea and Sausage Minestrone. As an alternative, go meatless on occasion and let complex carbs be the stars of your soup as with this Tomato and Lentil Soup or a classic Split Pea Soup with Rosemary.

By Maureen Callahan
Maureen Callahan is a registered dietitian, recipe developer and lead author of the Health.com diet book review series. She is a two-time James Beard Award winner.

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