A few weeks into the New Year and most people who made resolutions to lose weight have fallen off the bandwagon. Unwanted pounds are more easily gained in winter by decreased activity and overeating too much of the wrong things. Between the polar vortex and the bomb cyclone, we got hit hard in December and January with weeks of extremely cold weather. And we’re not done yet. What can beat a satisfying bowl of hot, healthy homemade soup on a cold winter’s night?
If the thought of making soup seems intimidating, fear not. If you can boil water, you can make the following recipe for lentil soup. I’m not the best cook and I made it. It’s delicious, nutritious and filling.
Lentils are high in fibre and it’s fibre that keeps you feeling satiated. Lentils are also high in protein which is important at every age for maintaining and building strong muscles. Lentils are nutrient dense and low in calories and fat which is why they’re a perfect ingredient for weight control and an excellent choice if you want to eat healthy in general. Lentils are also inexpensive, as are the other ingredients in this recipe.
I got the idea to make this soup after buying a container of ready-made lentil soup at Whole Foods. The soup was tasty and filling; however, the store is not conveniently located for me and I figured I could make a healthier, lower-sodium version. I also knew I could make a much larger batch for less money, about four litres for the price of one. I Googled and found many recipes. Here’s my version of lentil soup for beginner-level cooks.
You’ll need a tablespoon of olive oil or butter; one large onion peeled and roughly chopped; two medium carrots peeled and roughly chopped; three garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (a clove is a piece of a garlic bulb, not the entire bulb); one potato peeled and roughly chopped (no need to finely chop since you’ll blend the soup at the end); two cups of dried red lentils, rinsed with cold water and drained; one large tomato, chopped; one teaspoon of ground cumin; one teaspoon of ground turmeric; a half-teaspoon of ground coriander; and two one-litre boxes of low-sodium vegetable stock (you can make your own stock if you’re so inclined). I don’t add salt to the soup but you can add a pinch of salt or substitute the seasonings based on what’s in your pantry.
In a large soup pot on medium heat, warm the oil for a couple of minutes then add the onion, carrots, potato and garlic. Stir and cook for about five minutes then add the lentils, tomatoes and spices. Continue to stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock and turn up the heat to high. When the soup boils, reduce the heat to low and let simmer with pot covered for an hour. Then blend the soup until smooth. I use a stick blender directly in the pot, but you can blend it with a regular blender in batches.
If you eat a bowlful of this soup at dinner, you’ll be less inclined to nosh later in the evening. Those unnecessary after-dinner snacks that we gravitate to, especially in the winter when it’s dark and cold outside and we’re more likely to stay in the house, contribute to winter weight gain. The fibre is good for your digestion so you’ll be feeling lighter in the morning and that may be more encouraging for you to do some exercise. If you’re not used to eating much fibre, introduce it into your diet in modest portions. Eating a large portion may make you feel bloated and gassy. Rinsing the lentils before adding them to the soup removes some of the gas-causing enzymes. You can even soak them for a few hours if you have concerns. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, lentils are probably not a good choice for you because they contain FODMAPs which can aggravate symptoms.
A balanced diet of nutritious foods, such as this soup, will boost your immunity and help prevent you from catching those nasty colds and flus that go around in winter. Hand-washing, exercise, sleeping well and stress management also boost immunity.
By making better choices and committing to a bit of meal planning and food preparation, you may feel healthier and more energetic too. Bon appetit!