You’re doing it. Going on a diet. Today’s the day. Bye cheese. Bye meat. Hello fifty-shades-of-green in your fridge.
A week later you’re walking around craving a burger with spinach in your teeth. Chances are, this isn’t going to last long.
“Going to extremes with restrictive regimens that eliminate several food groups are almost impossible to stick with, which means you’re likely setting yourself up for failure,” said Johannah Sakimura, RD. Rather than completely giving up things like sugar, grains, or dairy completely, focus on limiting portions to reasonable amounts.”
If it’s weight loss you seek, we have a much easier way to limit portion sizes—and the corresponding calorie count—and it’s by adding to your diet, instead of taking away.
What are we adding exactly? Soup.
No, this isn’t a joke. That warming bowl of goodness on freezing winter days, your best friend when you catch whatever your hacking co-worker had (thanks, Larry), a lifesaver on lazy weeknights when nothing else is in your fridge, is also an easy way to apply the concept of volumetrics to your diet—that will, if you’re patient, lead to weight loss over an extended time period.
The concept is actually an approach to eating penned by Dr. Barbara Rolls, director of nutrition at Penn State, that can more or less be boiled down to getting more (food) for less (calories)—who can’t get on board with that?
Take a burger for example: For the same amount of calories in one-sixth of a burger, you can eat a large bowl of broth-based soup. After that bowl of soup, you will most likely feel a sense of satisfaction and fullness. After one-sixth of a cheeseburger your going to be asking where the hell the other five-sixths is (while housing the fries).
The trick is to focus on low-density foods that are low in calories but high-volume—so you can eat a larger portion of them, for less calories. Non-starchy fruits and veggies and, you guessed it, both-based soup (which is 80 to 95 percent water) make up the “very low-density” category.
So your new year’s diet resolution just got a whole lot easier—forget the restrictive fad diets and dry January, and just add soup. Here’s why it’s the easiest way to clean up your diet and achieve any ambitious weight-loss goals you set this year:
It reduces your calorie intake. A Penn State study found that eating a first course of soup before a lunch entree, resulted in a reduced total calorie intake at lunch by 20 percent, compared to when they didn’t eat soup. “A bowl of broth-based soup helps to fill you up, so you eat less at the main meal; It primes your system, so you’re less hungry,” said Sakimura.
“The fluid in soup can help provide an added level of fullness with fewer calories,” added Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. “In addition, some research suggests that warmer temperature fluids, like broth, can help to reduce appetite and increase fullness.”
It takes minimal prep time and requires absolutely no cooking skills. Break out that slow cooker your mom bought you in college—it’s about to be your new favorite appliance. If your cooking philosophy is toss a bunch of shit together and hope for the best, soup is right up your alley. “Use your slow cooker: Dump in all of your ingredients in the morning and you’ll have a warm, comforting dinner waiting for you when you get home,” said Sakimura.
Or be even lazier and go canned. Just choose smart: “If you select a canned soup, watch the sodium content. Many times a canned soup will say it contains two servings (but how many of us will really only eat half of the can?), so make sure to double everything on the Nutrition Facts panel if you will be consuming the entire can,” said Palinski-Wade. “I recommend keeping the calories of your soup selection to 300 or less, limit sodium to 350 milligrams or less, and look for options with at least 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.”
It packs in a shit-ton of nutrients. You know all of those veggies you’re supposed to be eating, but haven’t been able to bring yourself to gnaw on raw at the office? (Whoever said baby carrots are great potato chip replacements was high). Soup is an easy way to cram them in: “When following a recipe, you can always scale up on the veggies, or add extra varieties to the mix,” said Sakimura. “I like to finish just about every soup with chopped greens of some sort. Add them at the end of the cooking period to preserve more nutrients. Soups are also an easy way to feature beans and lentils, which are packed with fiber and great for your heart as well as your digestive system.”
You can make it your main course. “For a filling meal, I recommend a broth-based soup that contains about 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent lean protein, and 25 percent whole grains (like a wild rice and chicken breast soup with vegetables),” said Palinski-Wade. “This combination helps to provide a variety of nutrients, fiber, and protein to meet your nutritional needs while helping to keep you satisfied.”
It fills cold-weather cravings for unhealthy comfort foods. Mexican? Italian? How about some ramen? We got you. Here are some recipes to fuel your newfound soup-obsession (and crush the urge to open your Seamless app):
Rosemary Chicken Noodle Soup (We had to end with a classic.)