In Filipino cuisine, soup is a dish that’s fit for every meal. There are soup-based dishes like beef pares and goto that are best for breakfast and merienda, and dishes like tinola and sinigang that are ideal for lunch or dinner. Pinoys tend to love soup any time of the day, and also in any kind of weather; it is just as satisfying to consume soup in the summer as it is in the colder, rainy months.
But there’s one thing we often ignore about how we prepare many of our soup dishes. It’s that the amount of fat, meat, dairy, carbohydrates, and processed ingredients in them can make our favorite soup recipes a little less healthy than we’d like them to be. If you’re on a quest to adopt a healthier diet, one easy change that you can make for yourself is to adjust your soup recipes. Here are a few tips for making nutritious soups that don’t skimp on flavor.
Make Your Own Soup Broth
Soup is not soup without broth, and for many recipes, the taste of the broth is what makes a soup dish go from passable to amazing. To achieve this, however, you probably depend a lot on bouillon cubes or bouillon powders that are packed with concentrated flavors. These are great for when you’re in a hurry and don’t have a lot of time to make a satisfying meal. However, a more health-conscious lifestyle will require alternatives that aren’t as laden with salt and preservatives.
If you have time to spare and you’d like to make a soup that’s a little healthier and more natural, you can try making the broth from scratch. Start with our five-ingredient recipe for sabaw sa kamatis, which involves simmering down some pork rib bones, tomatoes, onions, fish sauce, and string beans in water until the bones are tender. You’ll achieve an incredible depth of flavor without as many processed ingredients, and you can also adjust the saltiness and seasoning levels to your liking.
Use Fresher Ingredients
On the topic of processed ingredients, the soups you enjoy may contain a lot of them. Lessen your consumption of soups with ingredients like bacon or sausage and try recipes that incorporate more fresh ingredients.
In many ways, fresh ingredients can also amp up the flavor of a soup. You’ll be able to taste the difference for yourself in our khao soi Thai curry noodle soup, which makes use of ingredients like fresh cilantro, lemongrass, lemon zest, and turmeric. Paired with coconut milk and cooked with chicken, this noodle soup dish will make for a hearty and healthy meal that you won’t feel guilty about enjoying.
Add Healthy Greens
Another way to make healthier soups is to seek out recipes that make liberal use of healthy greens. One example is the moringa leaf, better known to Filipinos as malunggay. This green ingredient is known to be a healthy source of protein, iron, riboflavin, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. It’s common in soup dishes like tinola and ginisang munggo.
However, malunggay is an adaptable ingredient that can be added to a variety of soup dishes. This recipe for egg drop soup with malunggay and corn fortifies an already satisfying soup with the nutritional benefits of moringa. Go beyond your comfort zone when it comes to greens like malunggay, and see what other soup recipes you can add them to.
Incorporate More Veggies and Less Meat
In many Pinoy dishes, including soups, meat is an essential ingredient. But the later it gets in the day, the less of it you’ll want to consume. Studies show that eating meat at night can leave some people with a heavy stomach while also increasing their risk of getting acid reflux. These could also result in the person not getting a good night’s rest.
If you’ve experienced these things before, you may want to cut down on the meat you consume at dinnertime, meat in soup included. Luckily, for a number of recipes, it’s easy to reduce meat portions without compromising the overall flavor of the soup. Our simple soup recipe still takes advantage of the flavor of chicken, but it will fill you up with hearty veggies like carrots, potatoes, and sayote. Indeed, saving the meat-laden dishes for breakfast or lunch, and eating more veggies to get full at night instead can do wonders for your digestion.
Explore Other Ways of Cooking Creamy Soups
Some of your favorite soups may include milk or other dairy products like cheese. But it may be the healthier option to enjoy these only once in a while. Consuming less dairy milk can decrease the inflammation in your digestive tract and thyroid glands, and it may be good for your overall metabolism as well. All the same, it’s not hard to replicate the creaminess of milk with healthier, dairy-free ingredients.
For a soup that’s hearty and rich even without dairy milk, try this recipe for making coconut and squash soup. You can even omit the fish sauce and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth for a vegan version of it. Experiment with other ingredients that can impart creaminess to your soup, like almond milk or oat milk, to get that same satisfaction.
Try Making Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Canned Soups
On some days, it’s nice to open a can of condensed soup and simply dilute it with boiling water for an instant treat. But if you want a healthier alternative to these, you can search for recipes that let you make them from scratch.
Our homemade cream of mushroom soup uses a few simple, common, and most importantly healthy ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, onions, and miso paste. It’s just a matter of cooking the mushrooms down until the liquid evaporates, then simmering with the other stock ingredients for half an hour. You’ll end up with a soup that tastes more like it came from a restaurant kitchen and less like something from the can.
All in all, there are a number of ways for you to cook a soup that will make the dish healthier and more nutritious. Which of these healthy soup recipes are you the most excited to try?