Jenna Smith

It's a good idea to read the package when buying bouillon, broth or stock, which are often high in salt, says Jenna Smith, a registered dietitian and nutrition wellness educator for Extension in Illinois. 

TOWANDA, Ill. — This time of year, soup is the ultimate comfort food. It’s an ideal food to eat to warm up after chores.

Jenna Smith, University of Illinois Extension educator based in McLean County, offers advice about making healthy soups, often low in salt.

“I have a different soup on every week,” she said of her go-to for cool nights. “There are so many combinations, it’s difficult to get tired of.”

The registered dietitian told guests attending an Extension soup demonstration at Towanda Library in Central Illinois that soups often contain a variety of nourishing ingredients — grains, protein, vegetables and carbohydrates — and they can also be pretty inexpensive. It’s a way to use some of the tougher cuts of meat, she said.

There are ways of making soups even healthier. Cut back on salt by reading the label of the meat or vegetable stocks used. It’s best to buy stock that says “No salt added.” Bouillon cubes are usually high in salt, she said.

Also, for a creamy soup, you can use half and half or evaporated skim milk instead of full cream.

Smith regularly builds a good soup a bit at a time. She carefully saves bits of leftovers in the freezer to be used for future soups. It cuts down on food waste and adds to the variety of soups she can create, she said.

Soup up your terminology

  • Bisque is a French-style soup made from crustaceans such as lobsters, crab, shrimp and crayfish. “Seafood bisque” is an unnecessary phrase and “tomato bisque” isn’t really bisque if it only has tomatoes.
  • Bouillon is a concentrated broth made from brown, white or vegetable stock.
  • Broth is the clarified liquid results from extraction of meat, fish or veggies cooked in water.
  • Chowders are hearty, thick soups prepared from fish or vegetables, pork and various seasonings.
  • Consommé is clarified double-strength brown stock.
  • “Holy Trinity”: Three ingredients often used in Cajun cooking: green pepper, onions and celery.
  • Purees are very thick soups which are prepared by putting cooked vegetables in a food processor to make a stock

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.