How to Eat Less by Eating More Soup

As the winter months approach our lives begin to change. The days get shorter and the weather gets colder.  This can lead to many changes in our lifestyles. Those of us who love to spend time outdoors may find ourselves increasingly drawn inside. I know I start to exercise less as the winter sets in. For some reason, the gym’s treadmill doesn’t seem to be an adequate replacement for beautiful wooded trails.

I’m cold and I’d like some mashed potatoes

Another thing that changes is my diet. During the summer, I actually crave fresh fruits and big salads. However, in the winter I desire the opposite. I’d be much more content with an extra slice of bread, another serving of casserole, or a bigger slice of pie. Am I the only one with this problem? Especially after spending some time outside in the cold, it seems comforting and…right to warm up by eating a big, hearty, heavy, hot meal.

But as most of us know, changes in diet can affect us in several ways. More often than not, winter has a knack for expanding our waistlines. Most people simply can’t eat an unlimited amount of potatoes, stews, roasts, rolls, gravy, nuts, and brownies without gaining weight. We’re not saying there is anything wrong with these types of foods, but moderation is essential. When it’s cold outside, we need to find a way to manage the amount of food we consume, while still feeling warm and satisfied.

The soup solution

The good news is that we have a solution to this problem. It’s a soup solution. It’s tasty, warm, cozy, and simple. Add a course of soup to your meals, or eat a big bowl with some fresh baked bread. Not only will soup warm you up, but it can help you cut calories from your meals.

A study done at Penn State demonstrated this very thing. In the study, grateful participants were fed lunch on multiple occasions. Besides the main course, which was always served, the participants were sometimes served soup as a first course. The researchers wanted to see who would eat more: those eating an entrée alone, or those eating both soup and an entrée. The results may surprise you. Researchers found that those who ate soup before their meal actually consumed 20% fewer total calories than those who only ate an entrée.

This happened because eating soup increases satiety (the feeling of being full). Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that participants who ate soup reported feeling fuller than those who ate a solid meal. This happens because soups delay gastric emptying—which is technical way to say ‘emptying your stomach’.  Basically, it means that soups stay in your stomach longer than solid food, so you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

It turns out soup wears many hats. Besides helping you keep warm and happy on a cold day, soup helps you eat less and feel full—which will go a long way towards keeping you satisfied and away from the potato chips. Now that’s a simple but effective dietary solution!

The ingredients

So what kind of soup should you make? Well, the soups used in the Penn State study were all low-calorie soups consisting of the same ingredients. However, the soups were prepared in a variety of different ways. While you may have guessed that a chunkier soup would provide more satiety, it turns out all forms of soup performed about equally. It did not matter if the soup was served chunky, puréed, or somewhere in between. (One was even served with the broth and vegetables in separate bowls.) Researchers found that soup was filling regardless of its consistency.

The caveat is that the soup does need to be a low-calorie broth-based soup. Stay away from cream based soups, which, because of their high fat content, may actually lead to weight gain. A creamy bowl of wild rice soup or corn chowder may be delicious, but these soups are not well suited for those looking to cut calories.

A final benefit of eating soup is that it can be a good way to add vegetables to your diet. If someone in your family is a bit squeamish at the sight of swimming veggies, you can chop them finely, or better yet, blend them. A soup with a tasty, hot broth will provide you with lots of nutrients as well as keep you warm and satisfied on a cold day. Whether it’s minestrone, miso, or your own version of chicken noodle, there are plenty of things to try.

Soup’s on!

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Jon Ewald, MD

Jon Ewald grew up in Minnesota and has a love for the outdoors. He obtained his medical degree at Loma Linda University, graduating in 2020. He is currently completing his residency in Radiology at University of Pittsburgh.

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