What Are Low-Fat Soups?

Cynde Gregory

Winter or summer, soups make a nice accompaniment to a meal or can even be a meal themselves. Most soups contain at least a few vegetables, so many people consider them to be a healthy way to eat, but that’s not always the case. In fact, low-fat soups can be made either by substituting healthier ingredients for cream, fatty meat, cheese, or other heart stoppers found in family favorites or by building the soup from the ground up using only low-fat ingredients.

Winter squash can be used to make low-fat soup.
Winter squash can be used to make low-fat soup.

To many, a big bowl of creamy clam chowder or ham and potato soup is the ultimate comfort food. Cream-based soups are delicious enough to make a grateful diner want to weep with joy, but a quick look at the ingredients list might be enough to make them weep for another reason altogether. Traditionally, these soups contain heavy cream, butter, and bacon or ham, and even a modest bowl can pile on pounds.

Vegetable noodle soup.
Vegetable noodle soup.

Happily, low-fat soups that mimic their high-fat cousins without sacrificing flavor are possible. Substituting 2% milk for the heavy cream, sautéing onion and other veggies in cooking spray instead of butter, and dumping the meat altogether is one way to go. A clever cook’s trick to thickening the soup into supreme creaminess is to add a couple of cooked potatoes that have been pureed with yogurt or fat-free sour cream.

Low-fat chicken may be used to make chicken soup.
Low-fat chicken may be used to make chicken soup.

Creating broth-based, low-fat soups is another option. Some cooks reach for the convenience of canned broth to save time, while others prefer the taste of homemade. There are a couple of ways to skim as much fat as possible from the homemade versions. For cooks in a hurry, dropping ice cubes into the broth causes fat to coagulate and cling to the ice; the cubes can then be scooped out with a spoon. If time permits, refrigerating the broth causes the fat to form a skin at the top; more fat can be removed using this method.

Split pea soup is a healthy winter favorite.
Split pea soup is a healthy winter favorite.

Broth-based, low-fat soups can be delicate sips, containing only a few slices of carrots and some shredded chicken, for example, or hearty enough for a lumberjack. Soups that make a meal can handle almost any healthy contribution. Diced veggies such as celery, tomatoes, and peppers are welcome to jump in, along with root veggies like potatoes or winter squash. Chicken, fish, or well-trimmed beef or pork add protein; tofu or tempeh also offer protein without much fat. Noodles, rice, or stale bread help thicken the soup.

Ice cubes may be dropped into broth to help extract fat from a soup.
Ice cubes may be dropped into broth to help extract fat from a soup.

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