Hearty cold-weather soups can help you meet your daily quota of vegetables

A warm bowl of soup on a cold day provides more than comfort for your soul. Soup can be an affordable way to serve lots of veggies, and it can help to stave off symptoms of cold or flu while keeping you hydrated.

Veggie quota. Soups can help you meet your daily quota of vegetables. Take advantage of fall and winter vegetables like pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips. You can even use veggies that are past their prime. If you're in a hurry, frozen vegetables come in handy. Simply add them to boiling broth.

Today's soup calls for sirloin steak, cabbage and diced tomatoes.
Today's soup calls for sirloin steak, cabbage and diced tomatoes.

Inexpensive and easy. Soups and stews can take as little as five minutes to prepare. A slow cooker or a pressure cooker can do what your cooktop can do but with less cooking time. To save money, use small amounts of chicken, fish or beef and larger amounts of veggies and liquid for the broth. When you serve the soup with a small salad and whole-grain bread, you’ve just made a satisfying meal.

Cook in advance. Prepare and freeze your soup or stew in advance, so you’ll have lunches or dinners when you’re in a rush. If you’re busy, tired or feeling sick, you’ll appreciate having a homemade soup that’s ready to heat and serve.

Immune system booster. Vegetables contain powerful immune-boosting chemicals and nutrients. One study found that chicken soup might work like an anti-inflammatory, which could ease symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. In addition, hot soup can soothe a sore throat.

Hydration. Most people know that hydration is important in the summertime. But it’s also crucial during the cold months because we lose fluids through our daily activities. With sufficient hydration and nutrition, the body can generate enough heat to maintain a proper temperature and help prevent hypothermia in certain situations.

Use homemade stock or broth if possible. If not, read the labels on canned broth, boxed broth and bouillon cubes. They may contain a lot of sodium  – a problem for people with high blood pressure. Choose ones with a daily value of less than 5% sodium per serving.

Today’s recipe for Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup is a quick version of a classic. This soup freezes well, so it will be ready when you or your family need some healthful home cooking in a hurry!

Bethany Thayer is a registered dietitian nutritionist with Henry Ford Health. For more recipes and health information, visit henryford.com/blog. For questions about today’s recipe, email HenryFordLiveWell@hfhs.org.

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Quick and Easy Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup

Today's soup calls for sirloin steak, cabbage and diced tomatoes.
Today's soup calls for sirloin steak, cabbage and diced tomatoes.

Serves: 4 servings / Prep time:  15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

8 ounces cooked lean sirloin steak, cut into bite-sized pieces

15-ounce can of low-sodium diced tomatoes

¼ head of green cabbage, chopped

⅓ cup pearl barley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons onion powder

½ teaspoon crushed celery seed

½ teaspoon oregano

Black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat and sauté onion until soft. Add carrot and celery and sauté 5-10 minutes. Add broth, meat, tomatoes, cabbage, barley, parsley, onion powder, celery seed, oregano and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

From Henry Ford LiveWell.

310 calories (18% from fat), 6 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 35 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 233 mg sodium, 30 mg cholesterol, 144 mg calcium,  7 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 1 bread, 4 vegetables, 2 protein .

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Soups can help you meet your daily veggie quota during cold weather