Ever notice how the end of holiday festivities coincides so spitefully with the onset of cold and flu season? All we can do is brace ourselves, dodge public door handles and stockpile our favorite soups to freeze and reheat as needed. Even if you’re trying to cut back on indulgences in the new year, you can (and should) find reprieve at the bottom of a steaming-hot bowl of chicken soup. Perhaps your recipe of choice involves buttery egg noodles, skin-on chicken and high-sodium stock — but there are plenty of ways to modify your broth and mix-ins without sacrificing the comforting feel of the original. Here are just five of the ways you can give this quintessential winter soup a healthy makeover.
1. Use low-sodium broth.
Sodium is essential for nutrient absorption and digestion. It’s also the backbone of a good chicken soup — when used in moderation. Studies show that Americans currently take in almost double the recommended daily salt limit. This Slow-Cooker Chicken and Vegetable Soup (pictured at top) eliminates that worry with low-sodium broth.
2. Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Homemade stock prepared with skin-on, bone-in chicken has long been touted as the key to excellent broth, but we think this Thai Chicken Soup does just fine without it. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts save a ton of calories (and prep time), and fish sauce lends a pleasant pungency. Finish your bowl with a refreshing squeeze of lime juice.
3. Introduce a new vegetable, spice or legume.
This Chickpea-Chicken Noodle Soup has it all: canned diced tomatoes for a rich yet low-fat broth, heart-healthy chickpeas — a welcome diversion from the usual trio of celery, onions and carrots — and even some cinnamon and cumin to add warmth and depth of flavor.
4. Use quinoa in place of pasta.
Die-hard noodle soup fans might be hesitant to give quinoa a try, but the nutritional payoff is so worth it. When simmered in chicken broth, these gluten-free seeds add a pleasant chewiness to Food Network Kitchen’s Chicken and Quinoa Soup — not to mention a boost of iron, protein and amino acids.
5. Or, use high-fiber beans instead of grains.
While whole grains certainly have their health benefits, nothing beats beans when it comes to fiber. For her Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup, Melissa d’Arabian bypasses grains altogether in favor of budget-friendly black beans. The hearty texture is unmatched by most other chicken soups.
For more soups to cozy up to this winter, check out these recipes from our friends:
The Lemon Bowl: Slow Cooker Posole Rojo
Creative Culinary: Split Pea Soup with Carrots and Ham
Homemade Delish: Italian Cioppino Soup
Taste with the Eyes: Wintery French Lentil Soup with Beef, Carrots, Sherry Vinegar
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Tomato Soup
Dishing with Divya: Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Creamy Vegetable Soup
From My Corner of Saratoga: Pressure Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup (in a slow cooker)
Red or Green: New Mexican Green Chile, Turkey & Posole Soup
The Heritage Cook: Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup (Gluten-Free)
In Jennie’s Kitchen: 14 Sensational Soups
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Winter Squash & Chickpea Ribollita
The Mediterranean Dish: Mediterranean Spicy Spinach Lentil Soup
The Mom 100: Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup
FN Dish: Soup’s On! 5 Warming Must-Make Bowls