Theoretically, having more choices is a good thing.
But when ordering a coffee at Starbucks is like doing a mini-dissertation in some vaguely Romantic language, and when picking out a jar of jelly at the supermarket requires an encyclopedic knowledge of every berry known to man, choices start to get overwhelming. Which is why, at the end of the day, when somebody asks, “Soup or salad?” most of us would rather bury our faces under the napkin than make even one more decision. (We can make one choice for you, though: Skip the bread roll, which certainly isn’t on the list of the best carbs for a flat belly!)
But your soups are critical. You know how the USDA wants you to get between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day? And how, if you count the little red crispy things in the box of Franken Berry you ate that morning, maybe you got two? Well, think of the soup as your extra credit, your personal ace in the hole—the tiny little bit you do on the side that skyrockets your daily nutritional score from a C+ to an A-. A well-crafted soup can give you three or four servings of vegetables and fruits, and presto, you go from failing the nutritional test to passing with flying colors.
Here are 20 of our favorite weight-loss soups for a healthier cold-weather season without weight gain. And to make sure you maximize your soup benefits, be sure to avoid these worst ingredients to put into your soup!
Crock Pot Black-Eyed Peas Stew
This fat-free vegan recipe will leave your mouth watering for more. Celery, carrots, and onion (called “mirepoix,” which chefs use as the foundation for countless sauces and stocks) add flavor and antioxidants, while protein-rich black-eyed peas (which are loaded with folic acid) add heft to this easy slow-cooker dish.
Get Holy Cow Vegan’s recipe for Crock Pot Black-Eyed Peas Stew.
Easy Chicken and Rice Soup
Butternut Squash Soup
We love tomato soup, but when it comes to vegetable soups, butternut is unbeatable. Beyond being super tasty, it’s also among the healthiest, packed with vitamin A, fiber, and omega-3s.
Get the recipe for Butternut Squash Soup.
Over the past 2 decades, tortilla soup has rivaled chicken soup as a comforting mainstay on major restaurant menus. Between the pulled chicken, the soothing tomato broth, and the pile of fixings, what’s not to love? How about a bowl of soup with 86 percent of your day’s sodium allotment? Unless you learn to enjoy it at home, that’s what you’re likely to get.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Tortilla Soup.
Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. This hodgepodge soup will go a long way in making sure you’re not one of them. Vary the specific vegetables depending on what’s in your fridge and what looks good in the market, but be sure to finish with a spoonful of jarred pesto, which helps tie the whole bowl together.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Minestrone with Pesto.
Traditionally, broccoli-cheddar soup is about the cheese, the broccoli playing second fiddle to a bowl of glorified fondue. We turn the tables on tradition, giving broccoli its proper due and using only a handful of sharp cheddar to give this soup a rich, creamy texture and beer—preferably a full-flavored ale like Bass—to give it body and soul. Just 8 ounces is needed, which leaves you 4 to sip on while the soup simmers away.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Broccoli-Cheddar Soup!
Baked Potato Soup
In its normal restaurant iteration, this is the only soup that can compete with broccoli-cheddar soup or clam chowder in terms of sheer caloric impact. Most versions you’ll find start with a base of heavy cream, making for a bowl that can easily pack 400 calories or more. We slice the calories dramatically by switching to chicken stock as the foundation, then adding a splash of half-and-half. The creamy potato flavor still shines through, and the bacon, cheese, and Tabasco give it the indulgent taste of a fully loaded spud. Add a bowl of mixed greens tossed with olive oil and balsamic and you’ve got dinner.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Baked Potato Soup!
Asian Beef Noodle Soup
When it comes to soups that serve as meals, no one can touch the Asian cuisines. From the thick, heady ramens of Japan to the funky, darkly satisfying beef noodle soups of China, to the spice-suffused bowls of pho from Vietnam, the entire continent seems to have mastered the art of transforming a few scraps of meat and vegetables into a magical eating experience. The slow-cooker soup here takes a cue from all three, combining a rich ginger- and soy-spiked broth with chunks of fork-tender beef, a tangle of springy noodles, and—for a fresh, high note to pair with the dark, brooding ones—a pile of fresh bok choy. This is no appetizer soup; this is a full-on meal.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Asian Beef Noodle Soup!
Ever feel the urge to cool off on a sweltering summer day with a bowl of hot tomato soup? Apparently, the Spaniards didn’t, either, which is why they created gazpacho to fend off the oppressive heat of August in Andalusia. Beyond beating the heat, gazpacho is also best in August and September because tomatoes are at their peak in late summer when they’re sweet and ripe and cheap. Gazpacho is a garden in a bowl, which means it’s better for you than plain, one-dimensional tomato soup.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Gazpacho!
Homemade Beef Barley Soup
This luxurious soup spotlighting barley, from The Almond Eater, packs an impressive 16 grams of protein. High in vitamin A and selenium, we’re going back for seconds of this tasty soup.
Get The Almond Eater’s recipe for Homemade Beef Barley Soup!
Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup with Coconut Milk, Coriander, and Cilantro
Get Hello Fresh’s recipe for Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup with Coconut Milk, Coriander, and Cilantro.
Vegetable Quinoa Soup
Oh quinoa, let us count the ways we love you. Garnish with as much parsley as you want to boost this soup’s antioxidant content, or mix it up and swap parsley for cilantro.
Get The Almond Eater’s recipe for Vegetable Quinoa Soup!
Healthy Asian Soba Noodle Soup
Healthy soup gets an Asian flair with the help of soba noodles, vibrant veggies like bok choy and carrots, and a hint of umami from tamari (which is healthy aficionado slang for healthier soy sauce).
Click here to get The Fitchen’s recipe for Healthy Asian Soba Noodle Soup!
Potato and Kale Soup
This wintry soup is just begging for a cozy fireplace to sit by and slink into a corner with your nourishing bowl of veggies, chicken breast and more.
Get The Almond Eater’s recipe for Potato and Kale Soup!
Most people expect a bowl of soup so thick and creamy you can stand a spoon up in it, but truth is, clam chowder, real clam chowder, has always been about the clams, with a thin but bracing broth of clam juice and a hit of dairy. We chose milk, which makes a light, clean, low-calorie chowder that won’t sit in your stomach all afternoon. There is, however, one item we won’t compromise on: bacon, whose smoky flavor pairs perfectly with the brine of the clams. You don’t need much—just one strip per serving.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for the Ultimate Clam Chowder!
French Onion Soup
We’re not going to lie: Good French onion soup takes time. But it takes almost no effort, other than fighting back the tears as you chop your way through the five onions. And wouldn’t you rather deal with a few errant tears than with a lackluster, overpriced bowl of soup that packs as much saturated fat as 20 strips of bacon and more sodium than nine bags of Lay’s potato chips, like those at many chain restaurants? Now that’s a real reason to cry.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Weight-Loss French Onion Soup!
Italian Meatball Soup
Order a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in Italy and you’ll likely leave your waiter dumbfounded, scratching his head for an answer. That’s because one of America’s favorite Italian dishes is a purely American invention, one that generally hinges on our typical tenets of excess. In Italy, polpettine are more likely to be enjoyed in a lighter fashion, either by themselves or in a soup like the one below. The pasta is still there (albeit a much smaller portion of it), but the broth houses a handful of stellar vegetables and serves to keep the meatballs moist and luscious. Though it’s light in calories, this is still a potent bowl of goodness—served with a lightly dressed salad, it makes for an incredible weekday dinner.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Italian Meatball Soup!
Italian Sausage Soup
The best definition of comfort food is the food Mom made when you were growing up. Matt’s mom made Italian sausage soup, a deceptively simple but wonderfully soothing bowl of meat, vegetables, and pasta—like chicken soup for the Italian soul. You can load this one full of vegetables, doubling the amount used below, and end up with a chunky, sausage-strewn minestrone. Either way, this soup is hearty enough to work as dinner on its own.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Italian Sausage Soup!
Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup
Curer of colds, warmer of hearts, soother of souls: Chicken noodle soup does everything a comfort food is supposed to do, and does so without a hefty caloric price tag. But steer clear of canned chicken soup: Not only is it sparse on chicken and vegetables, but a single cup can also carry up to half a day’s worth of sodium. (Which isn’t nearl This version is light on the salt, but so loaded with chunky vegetables and shredded chicken that it could be dinner on its own.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup!
Split Pea Soup
Split peas rank up there as one of the heroes of the health-food world, boasting deep reserves of fiber, B vitamins, and dozens of other vital nutrients. But despite their reputation as a straightlaced superfood, something magical happens to split peas when combined with a bit of smoky ham and a long, slow simmer. Slowly they begin to break down, commingling with the ham and the other vegetables to create a thick, creamy broth that could warm even the most frigid soul on a long winter day.
Get the Cook This, Not That! recipe for Split Pea Soup!