Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Weight Loss Weapon

In my last blog entry I talked about how winter creates the perfect storm for weight gain.  One large factor helping to create that storm is our increased desire for “comfort foods” during the cooler months.  The moment I feel a slight chill in the air I start having overwhelming cravings for soul-warming meals that could leave me with an expanded waistline by the time spring rolls around.  Luckily, I found a secret weapon that curbs my desire for classic comfort foods and doesn’t lead to an expanded waistline. Soup.

I truly believe that soup is the perfect winter comfort food.  A nice big pot of soup bubbling on the stove makes for a warm and delicious smelling house, and nothing warms the soul more than a hearty bowl of homemade soup.  Perhaps most importantly, when made correctly, soup can be an excellent low calorie source of vitamins, lean protein and fiber.  When searching for recipes, look for ones that contain a lot of vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Here are some of my favorites:

When making soup (even the recipes I have provided above) remember to use the techniques listed in my post on low calorie cooking.  Not all soups are low calorie and one must use good judgement when selecting a recipe.  Soup recipes with cheese, cream and coconut milk should be avoided.  One needs to use even more caution when ordering soup at a restaurant because restaurant soups can be shockingly high in calories.  When in doubt, avoid words like chowder, bisque, cheesy and creamy.

When eating soup, whether it is at a restaurant or at home, we need to weigh our choices for toppings and sides just as heavily as the soup itself.  A healthy, low calorie soup can be changed into a diet disaster with the simple addition of a few high calorie toppings.  Here are a few suggestions and things to avoid:

Sides/Toppings to Avoid:

Bread bowl (680 calories at Quiznos, 590 calories at Panera)
Corn muffin (270 calories at Cracker Barrel)
Biscuit (~200 calories/biscuit)
Sour cream (~60 calories/2 tablespoons)
Cheddar cheese (~100 calories/ounce)
Tortilla chips (~140 calories/ounce)

Suggested Sides/Toppings:

Plain nonfat yogurt (~15 calories/2 tablespoons)
Wasa crackers (~20 calories/ounce)
Green onions (~3 calories/stalk)
Corn tortillas (~55 calories/tortilla)
Saltine crackers (~13 calories/cracker)
Hot Sauce (~5 calories/tablespoon)

How much of a difference can these toppings/sides make?

1 cup Black Bean-Tomato Soup in a bread bowl with cheese and sour cream ~890 calories

1 cup Black Bean-Tomato Soup with cheese, sour cream and a corn muffin ~490 calories

1 cup Black Bean-Tomato Soup with green onions, yogurt and a corn tortilla ~173 calories

As you can see, changing what you use for toppings/sides can be an effective way to limit calorie intake. Topping selection is a relatively easy habit to alter and you may actually find that yummy homemade soups don't need toppings at all.
As with everything, I recommend making soups from scratch at home (using dried beans instead of canned).  Canned soups may be convenient, but they are loaded with sodium (which leads to water retention and stomach bloating) and preservatives.  Soups are really easy to make at home and usually only require one pot!  The best thing is that they are easy to make in large batches, which allows for extras to be portioned out for lunches or frozen for future use.
I’m always looking for new soups to fill my freezer.  Do you have any family favorite soup recipes that you would like to share?  

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