There is nothing I love more on winter days than a hot bowl of soup.
Soup is my go-to meal a lot of nights when I come in from work. Maybe my affinity for it is a holdover from my childhood years when a steaming bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle was a staple on snow days.
Maybe it's because when I was a single mom, a bowl of soup, glass of milk and a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato on it was a fast, inexpensive meal we all liked that I considered a healthy dinner. (It had tomatoes on it ... that's veggies, right?)
As I've gotten older, and it seems like my feet stay cold from the first day of winter until Memorial Day, soup is my preferred way to take the chill off. Only now, since writing this column, I've become a lot more conscious about what's in the can.
My new favorite is Campbell's Select Harvest light Maryland-style crab. Each can has two servings; and when that's my whole dinner, I eat both. That sounds like a lot, but between both servings there actually are only 160 calories and 1 fat gram.
However, when I looked closer at the label, I noticed it had 480 milligrams sodium for one serving, which meant I was ingesting 960 milligrams. That seemed high to me, until I got online at Dottie's Weight Loss Zone and saw that the sodium for my favorite Panera soup, broccoli-cheddar, had 850 milligrams in just the pick-two-sized serving.
(If you've never used Dottie's, it's the Bible of Weight Watchers. You can access it at www.dwlz.com. There is a complete list of restaurant dishes, their nutritional breakdowns and PointsPlus values, all in one handy location.)
Anyway, the 960 mg of sodium still worried me, so I called Jamie McDermott, a Memorial dietitian, and asked if that was excessive.
"A low-sodium diet is 1,500 to 2,400 mg of sodium per day," she said, "so I'd call 960 moderate. It's higher than if you made your own, but if you monitor your salt intake the rest of the day, you should be OK."
She suggested if I paired soup with a salad, not to use bottled salad dressing. Instead, make a dressing with ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. If I'm pairing soup with a sandwich, don't use processed deli meat, she advised, but choose something like roasted chicken.
Here's a soup our Weight Watchers at Work instructor gave us last fall. She used to be a caterer and all the recipes she modified to make WW-friendly are winners. This one is good, and so easy even I can make it.
Note: The points value is based on the old points system, not PointsPlus.
Weight Watchers Taco Soup
1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can black beans
1 can Bush's chili beans
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing mix
Combine all the ingredients and simmer at least one hour. Each one-cup serving is two points.