When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of hearty, stick-to-your-bones soup to warm you up. Unfortunately with just a little bit of cream, sodium-laden broth and oil it’s easy for that same teeny little cup to contain way too many calories, loads of salt and loads of unnecessary fat.
Thinking of whipping up your own batch of soup this weekend? Try some of these healthy hacks for maximum taste with minimal effort.
11 smart swaps to make any soup healthier
White Beans for CreaminessRinse a can under hot water, mash them up and add to a blender with a little bit of stock. Then transfer the mixture to your pot. Instant thickness AND fibre.Thinkstock
Cashews Instead of CreamThese nuts (high in heart-healthy fats and antioxidants) are any vegan's secret weapon. Soak a cup of cashews for two or more hours in water. Then drain them and blend with a cup of no-sodium veggie stock and you've got cashew cream to rival the cow kind. Thinkstock
Add Coconut Milk for an Exotic TwistRich in fibre and nutrients, coconut milk is a great way to boost flavour in creamed veggie soups. Beware though -- it is also high in fat and calories. One cup per pot is more than enough to go around.Thinkstock
Greek Yogurt instead of Sour CreamIf your recipe calls for a dollop of sour cream as a garnish, swap in thick, creamy, 0 per cent fat Greek yogurt instead. You won't even know the difference. (Bonus tip: it's also a great substitute for sour cream in nachos, too!)Thinkstock
Brown Your MeatAdding chicken, beef or pork to your soup? Be sure to brown them in a separate pan first. Doing so not only locks in flavour, but allows you to discard any leftover fat before adding it to the pot.Thinkstock
Go oil-freeThe key to aromatic soup is sweating the veggies before adding the broth. But that doesn't mean you have to sweat 'em in oil. Next time you send those onions and garlic to the sweat bath, try using a couple of tablespoons of stock instead of oil. Thinkstock
Go greenHave some wilting spinach? Does your watercress need some watering? Save about-to-turn greens by chopping them up and throwing them into hot soup a few minutes before serving. You'll add loads of nutrients and another layer of flavour.Thinkstock
Get your Grain OnNothing adds heartiness to a soup like noodles, rice or grains. But rather than rely on the starchy, refined white pasta or rice, go for fibre-rich alternatives like spelt, farro or rye. Prefer rice? Opt for brown or wild rice, or try nutrient-dense quinoa, barley or freekah. Thinkstock
Herb it UpEveryone knows adding herbs to a dish brightens it up without adding an unnecessary extra dose of salt. The same theory holds true with soup. Want more bang for your buck? Sweat your herbs (dried or fresh) before adding to the pot to release their full flavour potential. Thinkstock
Think salt alternativesWe're not going to deny that salt is delicious. But too much of it is bad for you. If you're using sodium-free stock, you're definitely going to want to punch up your broth. But instead of adding plain old salt, get a more complex salty flavour (with slightly less actual salt) via soy sauce or miso paste.Thinkstock
Make your own stockIt's easier than you think. Head to the butcher's and ask for bones (or the fish market for some cheap heads, tails and shells) and simmer that stuff up. Alternatively, save your veggie rinds throughout the week (carrot peels, leek and celery tops, garlic and onion butts -- anything without a bitter taste) and throw 'em in a pot with water come the weekend. Thinkstock