We don’t know about you, but soup is king when it comes to healthy, simple eating, and nutritionists agree, further commenting that soups can be an excellent tool if you’re looking to shed some pounds: “Soups are a great vehicle for providing texture and flavor, plus diverse food groups and nutrients while helping you achieve your weight goals,” says Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, MS, RD, founder of Hispanic Food Communications, and a member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. “But what I love most about soups is that they are part of many traditional diets from around the world and can therefore motivate many people from other cultures to eat healthier foods — you could honestly make a healthy soup for lunch or dinner every day for a year and never run out of new things to try!”
Below, 10 nutrient-dense stars to add to your next bowl. Grab your soup spoons!
1. Whole Grains
“Rice, barley, quinoa, or even couscous can add great texture, new earthy flavors, and even some color contrast. These grains provide great additional nutrients including protein, dietary fiber, B Vitamins, folate, and much more, and are scientifically proven to make you feel fuller longer, thereby supporting weight loss,” Melendez-Klinger says, pointing to this research. For more on whole grains, check out the complete guide to whole grains on a plant-based diet.
Creamy, decadent avocado is an excellent addition to your next bowl of soup, especially those with a Mexican or Caribbean flair. “Add avocado as a topping to your soup to get several benefits,” says Sarah Williams, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and weight loss expert who founded virtual private practice Sweet Balance. “Research indicates intake of avocado supports weight loss, creates favorable changes in the gut microbiota, may decrease abdominal fat in women, and helps lower LDL or ‘bad cholesterol.’
“Peas often get a bad reputation for being a starchy vegetable, but they actually are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein,” says Williams. “Adding peas to your soup can increase satisfaction and help you feel full longer — both helpful for weight loss.” Pro-tip: Add frozen peas directly to your pot in the final few minutes of cooking your soup.
4. Green tea
“If you make an Asian-style soup, consider using a diluted green tea as a broth! The tea may help you lose weight: Research shows that consuming green tea may lead to weight loss, according to data published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT. “Although the weight loss is thought to be minimal, every little bit helps!”
“Contrary to popular belief, potatoes are healthy and good for your waistline, so they’re a great, nutrient-packed vegan food to add to soup to assist in weight loss,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT & Tammy Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins, founders of 21-Day Body Reboot. They recommend puréeing them and adding them to soup to make it thicker and creamier, “which saves hundreds of calories compared to the cream that carnivores add.”
More specifically, on the weight loss front: “Ounce for ounce, boiled potatoes are one of the most filling foods you can eat, and they’re excellent at reducing appetite; they score highest on the Satiety Index, a scale that measures how filling different foods are,” they say. “Also, if you enjoy chilled soup or if you allow the potatoes to cool, they’ll form resistant starch, which research shows aids in weight loss.”
“I love adding soft tofu cubes to soup. The food supplies not only protein but also fiber,” says Gorin. And these two nutrients help you to feel fuller for longer, which can help you to lose weight because it may lead to you snacking less!” Vegan Thai Curry Noodle Soup coming right up.
Another go-to pick of Melendez-Klinger’s? “Croutons also provide great crunch and fiber. Plus they deliver this benefit whether they’re made with whole grains or enriched refined grains, as a brand-new study shows that ‘fast carbs’ (e.g. white bread or potatoes) no longer lead to weight gain or are less likely to lead to weight loss than ‘slow carbs’ (e.g. whole wheat bread or sweet potatoes),” she explains. In Asian-inspired soup recipes, try wonton noodles in lieu of croutons, and in tomato soups, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit we enjoy the occasional potato chip topping.
“Beans pair well with most soups, and the health benefits are endless. Adding beans to a weight loss diet is a smart move. Research on beans has proven that not only do you get filling high-quality protein, iron, fiber, and many important vitamins and minerals but they’ve also been linked to living longer,” says Melendez-Klinger. “The Blue Zones study demonstrated that centenarians ate about a ½ cup of beans regularly, which played a significant role in their longevity and overall health, which included a weight within range.”
9. Leafy Greens
“Adding leafy greens to your soup, like spinach and kale, can be an easy way to get more vegetables in your diet,” says Williams. “Vegetables help with weight loss because they are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A 2019 study found that increased vegetable intake, especially leafy greens, was associated with decreased bodyweight, even in people with genetic risk factors for obesity.”
The Nutrition Twins, too, love adding a heaping portion of greens to their soups, specifically calling out spinach for its slimming superpowers: “Spinach is the ideal vegan weight loss food to add to soup because it’s low in calories and satisfying since it’s packed with filling fiber. It adds a lot of bulk and volume to the soup, helping the soup to have a lower energy density (fewer calories per gram),” they say. “Research has shown that people eat fewer calories overall when they have low energy density meals and diets.
In either canned or fresh form, this is another top pick of Melendez-Klinger. She loves that they provide vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and high water content — the latter two features can help in weight loss efforts — “plus great texture and flavor.”
Speaking of tomatoes, if you’re not adding diced tomatoes to a favorite soup recipe, tomato soup itself is also a stellar waistline-friendly choice. Creamy vegan roasted tomato soup, anyone?