EATING FOR LIFE

Eating for Life | Subtle tweaks make cheese soup more nutritious

Subtle tweaks make a comforting bowl of soup more nutritious.

Updated: 2012-08-29T00:44:16Z

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA

The Kansas City Star

Cheese soup is so comforting.

Until you take a good look at the nutritional analysis: Campbell’s cheese soup has 200 calories per 1-cup serving, 10 grams of fat (4 grams saturated) and a whopping 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

But if you nibble around the edges, it’s fairly easy to whittle those numbers down without ruining that creamy texture that makes cheese soup and its many variations so satisfying.

The Star’s Vegetable Cheese Soup starts out with a base of reduced-fat cheese and fat-free half-and-half. Add low-sodium chicken broth, and you can take the sodium way down. Chopped celery, carrots and onions add fiber and flavor.

Cheese provides protein, calcium and phosphorous.

• Serving suggestion: Air-popped popcorn makes a fun, tasty garnish for this soup. One cup of plain popcorn is just 30 calories.

•  An even slimmer version: Lower fat cheeses can save a considerable amount of fat, usually 6 grams of total fat (4 grams saturated) per ounce vs. 9 grams fat (6 grams saturated) with regular cheese. However, avoid fat-free cheeses, which do not melt well and lack flavor. Our testers preferred the recipe as printed, but if you don’t have half-and-half on hand, you may substitute the same amount of 1-percent milk. If you would like to further reduce the fat content, you may reduce the amount of cheese to 1 cup before proceeding with recipe as directed.

Vegetable Cheese Soup

Makes 6 (1-cup) servings

2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 (14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth

1 3/4 cups fat-free half-and-half

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 (7-ounce) package 2-percent reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese (1 3/4 cups)

Air-popped popcorn or sliced green onions, optional, for garnish

Place carrots, celery, onion and chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, whisk half-and-half and flour together until smooth. When vegetables are tender, whisk half-and-half/flour mixture into broth mixture. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, stirring until cheese is melted and smooth.

Sprinkle with air-popped popcorn just before serving.

Per (1-cup) serving: 165 calories (20 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 315 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss. To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor and restaurant critic, call 816-234-4347, send email to jsilva@kcstar.com or follow her on Facebook.

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