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Happy Decemburrr...It's Soup Season!

It’s been quiet cold in Atlanta these past few days! We even had sleet on Sunday evening. With daylight savings in full force and temperatures dropping below 30 F, I am usually one to hibernate by the fire In the wintertime. But with a new, spunky, 3-month-old puppy, that is not the case this year. I am now finding myself outside trying to tire her out early and the morning, and late at night when the temperatures are the coldest!


Being in the cold entices me to want to come back inside to a nice warm meal! And what’s better than warming your insides up than a nice hot bowl of soup!

Premade soups are notoriously high in sodium which acts as a preservative, aiding in a longer shelf life, but also adding an unruly amount of salt to our meal. On average, a can of store-bought soup has over 3,000 mg of sodium! The recommended intake of sodium is between 1500 mg- 2000 mg PER DAY! Controlling sodium intake is so important in controlling high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It can also cause calcium losses, some of which may be pulled from bone.

Ideally, I recommend making your own soup to cut down on sodium and preservatives and packing it with nutritious foods, etc. But if that is not the case, here is what you should look for on the nutrition label of a premade soup.

1. Sodium content: anything less than 140 mg PER SERVING is considered low sodium. You likely won’t find a premade soup with sodium this low. I advise clients to aim for under 500 mg total for their meal (1/3 or 1/4 of their daily intake). If you are eating a soup higher in sodium, make conscious choices to eat lower sodium foods throughout the rest of the day.

2. Sugar amounts: Often, prepackaged foods have added sugars for extra flavor. A typical can of tomato soup, for example, contains a whopping 20 grams of added sugar — that’s equivalent to 5 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their sugar consumption to six teaspoons and men to nine teaspoons a day. Considering the average American consumes 17 g added sugar per day. Look for a soup with 6 grams or less of sugar per serving.

3. Ingredients: The fewer ingredients the better, not just in soups, but in any packaged food. Aim for five or fewer ingredients. Ideally, we want to eat real food and not preservatives.

Ingredients include salt or sodium-containing compounds includes:

· Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

· Baking soda (also called sodium bicarbonate)

· Baking powder

· Disodium phosphate

· Sodium alginate

· Sodium citrate

· Sodium nitrite

4. Fiber: Look for soups with 3 grams or more of fiber per serving. Fibers aids in digestion, helps control blood sugar, and can keep you feeling fuller longer. Soups containing lentils, beans or legumes and barley increase fiber content.

Though a can or box of soup can certainly be an easy meal on its own, you can also toss in other ingredients you have at home to make your soup even more nutritious and filling. Here are some ideas using soups you can find on your next grocery haul:

  • Add some chopped apple or pear and pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds to a butternut squash soup.

  • Add spinach to lentil soups before you heat it up, and then top with feta or parmesan cheese.

  • Top a vegetable with avocado slices and a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you want some crunch, crush a few tortilla chips on top.

  • Add in some beans to a vegetable soup for extra fiber and protein. If you are using canned beans, make sure you rinse them off first!

  • Chop up onions, bell peppers or carrots and add them to your canned soup to pack in extra veggies!

And don’t forget that the plant foods in canned soup count toward your daily veggie requirements, so if you’re low on fresh veggies, have some soup at the start (or on the side) of your main meal!

Stay safe and warm, friends!

Christina Ellenberg is a Registered Dietitian and Strength and Conditioning Specialist located in the Atlanta Metro Area.

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