12/11/2013 02:57 EST | Updated 02/08/2014 05:59 EST

Let Them Eat Soup!

The halcyon days of salad-loving summer may be long over, but does this mean we are all doomed to gain weight? Salad is a bastion of weight loss diets everywhere, but there is a new weight control food in town - soup!

- Co-Authored by Jill Parnell -

The halcyon days of salad-loving summer may be long over, but does this mean we are all doomed to gain weight? Salad is a bastion of weight loss diets everywhere, but there is a new weight control food in town - soup!

While wintertime is certainly associated with increased calorie intake and weight gain, this humble mainstay of cold weather kitchen repertoires has recently been linked to lower body weight. And no, we're not suggesting the cabbage soup diet...

Pick up pretty much any diet book and salad will be featured prominently. Rich in satiety-boosting fibre yet low in calories, salad is terrific for balancing energy intake. While boosting your vegetable intake is linked with weight loss and maintenance (1) - particularly a before-meal salad (2) - there are other satisfying ways to boost your veggie intake and keep calories controlled. Soup! Put away the cream and bacon... loaded baked potato soup may be delicious, but probably won't help!

In a recent analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Zhu and Hollis (3) found that people who skipped the soup had a significantly higher risk of being overweight or obese, and had lower "good" HDL cholesterol.

When important factors like age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status were controlled for, the relationship between soup-eating frequency, lower BMI and smaller waist circumference persisted. Frequency of soup consumption was not linked to blood sugar, blood pressure or serum triglycerides though.

What is so potentially special about soup? It takes up valuable real estate in your stomach and may improve satiety and fullness (5,6). Eating soup before a meal - called "preloading" in the research literature - has been linked to reduced calorie intake at meals AND over the course of a day (4,5,6,7,8). When children were given varying portions of low-calorie tomato soup the ad lib intake of entrées was lower when compared with serving no soup, but both vegetable and total meal calorie intake was most impacted when 150 g of soup was served (7). That's about 2/3 cup of soup.

Bailey & Murray (8) compared 300 ml (~1 ¼ cup) of pre-meal water or 200-calorie soup with no "preload", those consuming soup reported improved satiety one hour after meals, particularly in obese individuals. Though differences in total calorie intake were not significant in this small pilot study, the trends in reduced meal intake and post-meal snacking were promising.

No Baloney's advice? Join the pro-soup side and stay lean and mean this winter! Soup is a fantastic way to boost your intake of phytochemicals and antioxidants. It is also a great way to utilize less expensive frozen veggies (Yup - frozen veggies are often just as good as fresh!).

Choose a small portion of broth-based veggie-laden soup for a pre-meal, but leave a bit of time between soup and entrée to let the satiety factor kick in. Or try a hearty, packed-with-veggies soup for a main meal. Focusing on high fluid and fibre content while skipping the cream and butter is likely to render the best results.

A good source of protein is also a smart choice with either lean meats or legumes (lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, etc.). We are certainly NOT endorsing fad diets based on a single soup, but do encourage adding soups to your meal plans. With the weight loss, you'll need the extra warmth this winter!

For some delicious and healthy soup ideas, we like Cooking Light's 101 Healthy Soup Recipes and Eating Well's Quick and Healthy Soups and Hearty Soups and Stews.

Roasted Squash and Bean Soup with Kale

Full of fibre and "mood boosting" nutrients like beta-carotene, folate and vitamin C, this warming winter soup makes great use of late fall/early winter produce. Serve with a pear, walnut and goat cheese salad, or top with chicken sausage or crab meat for a hearty meal.


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped onion
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage*
  • 1 can (540 ml) white kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (BPA-free, if you can find them)
  • 3 cups mashed cooked butternut or acorn squash**
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cups shredded kale
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • thick balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinegar syrup


  1. In a large pot, heat butter over medium high heat. Sauté onion, carrot and celery for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sage; sauté for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in beans, squash, broth and an additional 3 cups of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, transfer soup to food processor or blender (or use immersion blender directly in pot but off the heat) and pureé until smooth. Return soup to pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Over medium-low heat, add kale and parsley; cover and simmer until kale is cooked through, approximately 5 minutes. Serve and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


  • If using dried sage, use only 3 tsp to avoid overpowering the soup. Sage flavour will soften the longer the soup is cooked, so make sure to add at the beginning.
  • To make 3 cups of cooked squash, use 1 large butternut squash or 2-3 acorn squashes. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (you can reserve seeds later for toasting!). Place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and prick the skin several times with a fork. Bake at 375°F (190°C) oven for about 30 - 40 minutes, or until squash is fork tender. Let cool, then scoop out flesh with a spoon and discard skin. You can also substitute canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!) if you are pressed for time.