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Healthy Low-Carb Soups

By Andrea Cespedes

A bowl of soup warms and satisfies you on a cool day. You don't have to deny yourself this comfort, even while on a low-carb diet. Although many typical soup ingredients, such as starchy vegetables, noodles, potatoes and rice, are off-limits, plenty of delicious options remain. Whether you want a creamy bowl or hearty vegetable blend, soup can be a menu choice on a low-carb diet.

Creamy Low-Carb Soups

Although starchy soups thickened with high-carb pureed potato or a flour-based roux are out, you can still enjoy a creamy, rich soup by using pureed cauliflower and cream for thickening. Cauliflower contains about 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup, cooked. Heavy cream has about 6 grams of "net" carbs per cup.

Net carbs are those that impact your blood sugar. You can figure net carbs in a food by subtracting the fiber grams from a food's total carbohydrate grams.

A sample creamy soup recipe uses the flavors of bacon and blue cheese. Sauté chopped leeks, with 8 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup, and button mushrooms, with 2 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup, in butter. Stir in chicken broth and chopped cauliflower. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft and then puree in small batches in a blender or food processor.

Return the smooth soup to the heat and thin with water to your preferred texture, then stir in several tablespoons of blue cheese -- which has only trace carbs per tablespoon -- until melted and warmed through.

Serve the soup topped with crunchy bacon bits. As all the ingredients with carbs are distributed over about six bowls, each serving contains about 6 grams of net carbs.

Low-Carb Vegetable Soups

Low-carb vegetables are plentiful. You have options including mushrooms, celery, summer squash, green beans, tomatoes, spinach and fresh herbs for flavor -- use any or all in a vegetable soup.

For a simple harvest-style option, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped vegetables and cook until softened. Pour in a generous amount of chicken broth, which has less than 1 gram of net carbohydrate per cup. If you prefer to use vegetable broth, you'll spend 3 grams of net carbs per cup.

Stir in canned, diced tomatoes, which have about 8 grams of net carbs per cup. Season with salt, dried spices -- including thyme, sage and rosemary -- and black pepper. Continue to simmer until the flavors are blended and serve. Expect the soup to contain about 7 grams of net carbs per serving.

Alternatively, create a smooth, vegetable soup by sauteing produce of choice -- broccoli, red peppers or spinach, for example -- with onion in coconut or olive oil. When softened, add chicken or vegetable broth and puree.

Return the soup to low heat and add small amounts of cream to thicken and mellow the flavors. Season with salt, Parmesan cheese and herbs of choice. Depending on the vegetables you use as a base, expect this soup to contain 5 to 7 grams of carbs per serving.

Low-Carb Chili and Stew

Chili and stew are protein-based soups that fit right into a low-carb regimen. Leave the beans out of the chili and the potatoes or corn out of the stew to make a relatively low-carb meal. Settle for a slightly thinner texture to keep your dish extremely low in carbs, or if you don't mind distributing the 6 grams of net carbs in a tablespoon of flour or 5 grams of net carbs in 2 tablespoons of tomato paste among several servings, use these as thickeners.

A low-carb beef stew-style soup requires you first to sauté onions and cubes of beef in butter. Include tomato paste in the saute if you want a thicker, slightly higher-carb, soup. Add beef broth, chopped zucchini and canned diced tomatoes.

Season with dried rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper. If you include tomato paste, each of four servings contains about 5 grams of net carbs; 4 grams of net carbs without the paste.

Healthy Commercial Low-Carb Soups

When you don't feel like cooking up a pot of soup -- but still want a warm, satisfying bowl -- reach for a pre-made brand that's low in carbs. Plain beef, chicken or vegetable broths are the lowest-carb versions -- with 0 to 3 grams of net carbs per cup. Throw in a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few sliced mushrooms to add substance without adding more than 1 to 2 grams of net carbs.

Several brands of canned or boxed vegetable or vegetable-beef soup and creamy mushroom might fit into your diet, with between 7 and 9 grams of net carbs per cup. Check the label of the brand you purchase to make sure you've got one with lower carbs.

The majority of canned soups are pretty high in carbs though. Many brands of seafood bisque have around 20 grams of carbs per cup and other higher-carb soups, such as bean, tomato bisque and lentil versions have 18 to 24 grams of net carbs in that same 1-cup serving.

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