The joy of soup

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 18 January 2013.
Tagged: fat, fibre, guides, healthy cooking, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, healthy recipes, soup, tips, weight loss

The joy of soup
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Once winter arrives, it’s a great time for soup. Whether you like pumpkin, vegetable and barley, minestrone, cream of celery, pea and ham or tomato, a bowl of soup is warming and nourishing on a cold winter’s day. Add a chunk of crusty bread and you have a complete meal that’s quick, easy and satisfying.

‘Souped up’ weight loss! Remember the Kickstart Soup Diet?

Soup shot to fame a few winters ago with popularity of the Kickstart Soup Diet. Remember that diet?  It went like this: you cook up a huge pot of vegetable soup with onion, stock, canned tomatoes and as many non-starchy vegetables as you like (one of which was usually cabbage) and then you eat the soup for breakfast, lunch and whenever you’re hungry in between and have a normal meal for dinner. 

‘Eat as much soup as you like and you'll drop kilos in one week’. That was the promise of the diet and it had many of us slurping bowls full. Did it work? Yes – but only for the initial period. Like other ‘single food’ diets, once you restrict yourself to just one food, the soup soon gets so monotonous you end up limiting how much you eat, and after a couple of days you never want a bowl of soup again!

What’s more, it could hardly be called a balanced diet. It was more a last-minute desperate measure to lose those extra kilos before a wedding or to kickstart your diet before you switched to something more sane, long-term and balanced.

Soup’s your friend if you have to dine out on a diet

Shortcomings aside though, the soup diet highlighted one thing – soup is a satisfying food that can work as a high-fibre, low-kilojoule 'meal replacement'. With its high content of water and fibre, it fills you up, so you feel full before you’ve eaten too much. A sort of home-made appetite suppressant. Sounds like the perfect diet food to me.

If you’re dining out, soup is a filling first course with good research to back up its power to satisfy and help you slim down. Over the past 10 years, Dr Barbara Rolls, Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, has been studying how soup can help your diet efforts. She found that dieters who ate soup as their first course in a meal consumed on average 400 fewer kilojoules (100 calories) in that meal compared to those who didn’t start with soup.

Canned soups – how much fat do they contain?

Check our soup comparison below. Most canned soups are low in fat, less than 3 g per 250ml mug. Soups labelled as ‘cream of’ or ‘chowder’ have more fat than vegetable or beef stock-based soups, as do Asian soups with coconut milk.

Soup variety grams fat per mug
Seafood chowder 10.0g
Thai pumpkin with coconut 6.5g
Cream of chicken 5.5g
Cream of asparagus 5.5g
Chicken laksa 5.0g
Thai Tom Yum 2.5g
Pumpkin 2.5g
French onion 2.0g
Pea and ham 2.0g
Thai chicken noodle 1.0g
Minestrone 1.0g
Chicken/beef with vegetables 1.0g
Beef broth <1g


Packet (dehydrated) instant soups – how do they stack up?

Last winter, I did a quick comparison of instant soups for an article I was writing. I was surprised to discover that almost all of them are low in fat, regardless of whether you choose Garden Vegetable, Cream of Mushroom or Hearty Beef. Only varieties like Chinese Chicken and Corn Noodle soup (4.5g fat per sachet) or Roast Chicken Hearty Soup (6.5g) stood out as higher in fat and kilojoules (calories).

Their one big drawback was that they have more  salt which is needed to maintain their shelf life as a non-refrigerated dried product. They have have a lot more additives than home-made or canned soups eg several thickeners, flavours, "extracts" and mineral salts. This is the trade-off for their convenience.

Here’s how to make the most of soup’s virtues:

  • Order soup when you eat out, especially if you’re ravenous to begin with.
  • On the weekend, cook up a big pot of the stuff and freeze in portions for two serves or four serves to suit your weekday needs. See my suggestion below.
  • If you’re watching your weight, heat up a cup of vegetable soup to sip as a hunger killer, especially when those late-afternoon cravings hit.

30-minute vegetable and bean soup

Cook up a pot of this quick soup to use as a diet filler and hunger buster.

Makes 8-10 cups


1/2 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced

2 carrots, finely sliced

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 cup broccoli florets

1 zucchini, sliced

50 g (2 oz) green beans, trimmed and halved, about a cup

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 litre (4 cups) vegetable or chicken stock – buy reduced-salt if you can OR use water

400 g (16 oz) can butter beans, drained and rinsed

1-2 cups water


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot or deep saucepan. Pan fry garlic and leek for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, celery. Stir to coat.
  3. Pour in stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Don't over cook.
  4. Stir in butter beans and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check if you need more water. Serve immediately in bowls or cups. Freeze in 1-cup portions for later.
Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!