The holidays are past. The resolutions are still in mind. And it's cold outside - welcome to January! Did you know that the month of January is also designated as National Soup Month?
How appropriate that during the bone-chilling month of January, soup is highlighted. There is nothing like a nice, piping hot bowl of soup on a cold winter's day to warm you up from the inside out. If you like the outdoor activities of winter, like sledding, skating, snowmobiling, etc., it tastes so good to come in from being outside to a steaming bowl of soup. Being out in the cold weather seems to ramp up our appetite and even though a mug of hot cocoa hits the spot, soup satisfies the hunger.
Soup offers a nice blend of ingredients and flavors to our meal. The varieties of canned soups are many if you take time to look at them all in the grocery store. If you like to make homemade soup, the sky's the limit as to the types of vegetables and meats you can use together in your soup.
The one thing that is constant, however, is that there needs to be some sort of broth or liquid as a base, and often that liquid is quite high in sodium. If you buy a can of regular soup in the 10- to 11-ounce size can, it tells you on the label that there are about 2.5 servings in that can. That's important to know because the Nutrition Facts label on that same can lists the amount of sodium that there is in one serving. So, you need to do the math to figure out how much sodium you are actually consuming. If you don't add as much water as they recommend or you are able to eat the whole can by yourself, you are actually consuming more than 2,000 mg of sodium in that one can of soup. (The recommendation for a healthy sodium intake is between 2,000-3,000 mg per day.)
If you make homemade soup, it is still convenient to use a purchased broth. Unfortunately, these products are high in sodium, too. A 10- to 11-ounce can of chicken broth also has about 2,000 mg of sodium per can. If you use chicken bouillon according to the instructions on the jar, 1 tsp. of granules makes one cup of broth and that provides about 800 mg of sodium.
There are lower sodium options available though - many popular soups have a 30 percent lower in sodium version and they are labeled as such. Even at 30 percent less, they still contribute a significant amount of sodium to your diet. There are a few soups that are low sodium soups and they generally have less than 100 mg of sodium per serving but can be a little "blah." Note - there is a big difference between lower sodium and low sodium in terms of actual sodium in the can!
Trying to get a tasty and low sodium soup probably means that you need to make your own stock or broth. By using fresh vegetables, like celery, onions, garlic or bay leaf, you can add flavor to your broth without having to have the salty taste.
If you like cream soups or use cream-based soups (eg. cream of mushroom) in your favorite recipes, the sodium is a concern as well. In addition, they contain fat. A regular can of cream of mushroom soup contains more than 2,000 mg of sodium and about 15 grams of fat. The lower-sodium version contains about 1,200 mg of sodium and about 5 grams of fat. Again, if you have the time to make your own white sauce or soup base, you can control the quantity of salt and fat you add and usually produce a recipe that is quite a bit lower in salt and fat.
Convenience is a factor here; making homemade broths, bases and soups takes much more time than opening a can. I do know, though, that all those garden vegetables that I so diligently froze into one cup portions last summer, taste so good in a hearty bowl of soup in the middle of January with the cold wind howling from the north! Happy National Soup Month.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org