Build the Perfect Soup

Warm up and recover with the perfect runner-friendly fuel in just 30 minutes

January 17, 2013
soup ingredients - healthy food
1/7 Joyce Lee

When made with the right ingredients, soup provides carbs, protein, and antioxidants, supporting your muscles like no other meal. Plus, studies show eating a bowl before a meal can curb your appetite and reduce overall caloric intake by 20 percent. Many runners think they need hours to cook a decent soup, but that isn't true. You can make a delicious meal with whatever is in your kitchen, and have it ready in 30 minutes. Create your own soup by following these five steps, choosing among the fresh, frozen, and leftover ingredients you have on hand from the list below. 

Fuel your workouts with more than 120 recipes from all-star chef-athletes in The Athlete's Palate

aromatics - healthy diet
2/7 Thinkstock
Step 1: Cook Aromatics

These vegetables, herbs, and spices add flavor and aroma. In a 4- to 6-quart pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1 cup diced vegetable aromatics and 2 tablespoons dried herbs and spices; sauté 5 minutes. 

Learn how to pick the right combination of herbs to spice up any meal!

Best Choices: Onion, garlic, celery, carrots; dried sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder

Health Perk: They add anti-inflammatory compounds that fight soreness.

Quick Tip: Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking to prevent flavor loss.

Video: Learn to grow herbs in your kitchen

chicken stock - how to make a healthy soup
3/7 Thinkstock
Step 2: Pour in Liquid

Add 4 to 8 cups warmed liquid (heating it speeds up cooking). Use one type of liquid or a mix for more complex flavors.

Healthy Olive Oil Alternatives to Try

Best Choices: Vegetable, chicken, beef, and fish stock; tomato puree and juice; beer or wine (up to ¼ of total liquid)

Health Perk: Liquids keep you hydrated in the winter and relieve congestion.

Quick Tip: Condensed stock you reconstitute with water takes up less storage space.

4 Winter Soup Recipes to Try

vegetables - healthy diet
4/7 Thinkstock
Step 3: Add Vegetables

Aim for 4 to 6 cups, cut into bite-size pieces. Cook for 5 to 15 minutes (soft or precooked veggies need less time; raw, hard vegetables need more).

Are organic foods really healthier? Find out which ones you should splurge on.

Best Choices: Kale, carrots, peppers, bok choy, cabbage, tomatoes, mushrooms, squashes, broccoli, sweet potatoes

Health Perk: Veggies pack antioxidant vitamins and runner-friendly minerals.

Quick Tip: Add greens during the last five minutes to prevent overcooking.

Slim down and satisfy cravings with this free 2-week meal plan: Eat This, Not That

chicken - healthy diet
5/7 Thinkstock
Step 4: Include Proteins

Use 2 cups cooked meat or fish and 1 or 2 cans of beans for a vegetarian protein source. If you use dry lentils, add more liquid and cook for 20 extra minutes.

Best Choices: Beans (all kinds); cooked chicken, beef, fish, shrimp; tofu, edamame; lentils

Health Perk: Lean protein repairs muscles and provides iron--a mineral that many runners don't get enough of. (Find out the hidden benefits of protein supplements to see if you need them.) 

Quick Tip: Keep cans or pouches of tuna, salmon, or chicken on hand.

20 Protein-Packed Foods that Slim

quinoa - healthy diet
6/7 Thinkstock
Step 5: Toss in Carbs

Add 2 cups precooked carbs and heat through for 5 minutes (add extra liquid and cooking time if using uncooked carbs).

Pick Your Ingredients: Mix and match to suit your tastes. (For the healthiest versions of each food, follow our Ultimate Supermarket Survival Guide on your next trip to the grocery store.)  

Best Choices: Cooked whole grains (brown, black, or wild rice, farro, quinoa, and barley); whole-wheat pasta; potatoes

Health Perk: Carbs restock energy stores and add B vitamins, crucial for energy metabolism. (Avoid going overboard on carbs--if you're fueling up before a race or intense workout, learn the right way to carbo-load.)  

Quick Tip: Small pastas like macaroni work best in soup.

Fact vs. Fiction: Cut Carbs to Lose Weight

slow cooker - kitchen essentials
7/7 Thinkstock
Kitchen Essentials

Standby Knife Upgrade: 
Mini chopper
It finely cuts ingredients in seconds and takes up only a fraction of the space of a full-sized food processor.

Standby Slow cooker Upgrade: 
Ninja Cooking System 
This product allows you to sauté directly in the cooker, then switch to its slow-cook function to finish the dish.

Standby Blender Upgrade:
Immersion blender 
This powerful, mini handheld blender lets you puree in the pot and makes cleanup easier.

15 Handy Kitchen Tools for Healthier Living