Salads and Soups

Soups and salads are delicious and wholesome foods. With a handful of healthy ingredients, you can put them together in a snap. You can serve them warm or cold and offer a variety of benefits, including reducing caloric consumption, if your aim is weight maintenance or weight loss. By adding lean protein to a vegetable-rich base, your soup or salad can become a meal on its own. Choosing the right ingredients increases the nutritional value of a soup or salad.

Fresh Produce
Leafy greens offer some of the greatest health benefits as they're rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Begin your salads and soups with a variety of leafy greens -- lettuces for salads, kale and spinach for soups -- then aim for a rainbow of color to get the greatest number of health-promoting nutrients. Choose red produce for lycopene, orange for beta carotene, blue or purple for heart-healthy anthocyanins, and green for cancer-fighting Isothiocyanates. Mix it up for flavor, texture and health benefits.

Lean Protein
You need protein to maintain muscle mass and it also provides a lasting sense of satiety from a meal. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends choosing lean turkey and chicken, and wild-caught cold-water fish over red meat. If you want to include red meat, go for lean cuts to reduce risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. Soy products, such as tofu, have been linked to reduced incidences of certain cancers. Other legumes, including beans and peas, provide added protein to your salad or soup along with a dose of heart-healthy fiber.

Whole Grains and Seeds
Whole grains, like millet, barley, wild and brown rice, and summer or winter wheat berries, add a satisfying nuttiness to soups and salads. They are high in fiber and filling. Choose unprocessed grains to derive the greatest health benefits. Nuts and seeds will increase fat content slightly, but they are full of heart-healthy, immune-boosting fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Consider them more of a condiment than an ingredient.

Putting It All Together
Try a delicious salad that starts with a base of baby greens, add to that sliced roasted beets, shredded carrots and 1 tbsp. of walnuts. Use a low-calorie vinaigrette. An easy-to-prepare summer soup is a tomato-based gazpacho. Throw your favorite vegetables, herbs and a little water into a blender and rough chop them for a healthy soup. A satisfying blend is heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, basil, oregano, garlic, scallions and a squeeze of lemon.


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