Nothing is better than cozying up with a hot bowl of soup in a cold Montana winter. Soup can be easy to make, packed with nutrition, and simple to freeze and reheat.

The best kinds of soup recipes aren’t strict science in terms of ratios and measurements, making soup the best go-to on a cold night. You can toss nutritious ingredients like lean cuts of meat, hearty vegetables and broth in a crockpot and cook it all day for an easy dinner.

Soup is considered a low energy-dense food, meaning that it provides more food for fewer calories, in addition to providing hydration through high water content. This means you’ll feel satisfied and hydrated while actually consuming fewer calories. In this way, soup offers a variety of benefits, including helping to control hunger, reducing total calorie intake at a meal, and providing greater satisfaction.

Because soup recipes aren’t an exact, strict science, soup is forgiving, inexpensive to make, and discourages food waste. Ingredients can be easily substituted in a soup recipe based on what you have available- rice for noodles, vegetable broth for beef or chicken broth, turkey for chicken, or kidney for black beans. Soup can also help you stretch your ingredients, letting you be satisfied with less. Use meat as a flavor enhancer and increase the serving of vegetables to make up the difference, or add cheese on top instead of as an ingredients to get similar flavor and be satisfied with less. Finally, soup is an excellent way to use up leftovers, such a beans, grains, herbs, and vegetables.

Soup can also be packed with nutrition. Most recipes call for beans, lean meats, and vegetables, and are low fat and high fiber. A study by the University of Pennsylvania showed that serving vegetable soup to young children increased overall vegetable intake, and a Dutch study showed that toddlers introduced to new vegetable via soup increased acceptance compared to non-soup eating toddlers. To substitute high-fat and high-calorie ingredients like cream, add pureed squash or root vegetable for a creamier, heartier version without unnecessary calories.

For more information, check out the Richland County Nutrition Coalition Facebook page at facebook.com/1rcnc1, and the Pinterest page at pinterest.com/1rcnc1.

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