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University of Illinois Extension serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties

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535 South Randall Road
St. Charles, IL 60174-1591
Phone: 630-584-6166
FAX: 630-584-4610
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Master Gardener: M-F 10 am to 2 pm

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Naperville, IL 60563
Phone: 630-955-1123
FAX: 630-955-1180
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Kendall County
7775-B Illinois Route 47
Yorkville, IL 60560
Phone: 630-553-5823
FAX: 630-553-5871
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Master Gardener: M-F 9 am to 12:30 pm

News Release

Soup: A Cost-Effective, Healthy Meal Option

ST. CHARLES, Ill. – Whether hearty or light, soup can serve as a healthy, balanced meal. To celebrate National Soup Month this January, U of I Extension offers some helpful tips.

“The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on how soups can fit into a healthy eating pattern,” said University of Illinois Extension Educator Jessica Gadomski, a registered dietitian for SNAP-Education. “The versatility of soup makes it a great option for those looking to avoid food waste, be more budget conscious or try something new and different.”

As you plan soup meals, Gadomski encourages keeping MyPlate messages in mind:

Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables

These foods differ by color and type, providing a variety of nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Soups are an excellent way to incorporate any and all vegetables you may have on hand.

“The next time you have a can of diced tomatoes, a bunch of celery or a bag of frozen cauliflower that you don’t know what to do with – make soup!” said Gadomski. “Why not try a steamy vegetable soup using fresh, canned or frozen options, and experiment with fresh and dried herbs and spices to make that perfect spoonful.”

Make Half Your Grains Whole Grains

Whole grains can be an excellent ingredient within soups or tasty complement for dipping. Plus, they contain fiber and nutrients refined grains do not naturally possess. 

“Whole grain breads, pastas and rice pair well with soups, if you’re looking for more texture try adding corn tortilla strips,” said Gadomski. “Also consider using less popular grains like oatmeal, barley, farro or bulgar. Incorporating more whole grains into your soup meals can be as easy as trying a whole new recipe or simply modifying one of your favorites.”

Choose Low-Fat and Fat-Free Dairy

These dairy choices may contain less calories and lower saturated fat than their full-fat counterparts, but they still provide calcium and nutrients to maintain strong teeth and bones, a healthy weight and heart.

“Low-fat or fat-free dairy products can replace traditional ingredients for cream-based soups or be used as a topping for hearty chili or stews,” said Gadomski. “Try a spoonful of low-fat cheese or plain yogurt to cut through spicier fare.”

Go Lean with Protein

Protein is important to keeping bodies functioning properly. Strive to incorporate lean options from both plant-based and animal sources in your meals.

“Dried or canned beans and lentils are central to many recipes and are a cost-effective way to increase the protein content of your soups,” she said. “You also can add protein by repurposing leftover chicken, turkey or beef, even using their meat and bones to create homemade versions of broths and stocks.”

As an added bonus, the entire family can help in soup preparation.

“Steps in preparing your soup can be divided among family members of all ages,” said Gadomski. “It’s a great way to get kids to engage in meals and begin building kitchen skills, like measuring and cutting.”

If you’re looking for healthful, low-cost soup recipes that taste great, check out the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs website at:

The healthy choice, isn’t always the easy choice, especially on a limited budget. The Illinois Nutrition Education Programs and SNAP-Education provide practical tips to help low-income families prepare safe and healthy meals, while staying active each day.

For more information on University of Illinois Extension programs and services in your county, visit University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.

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Source: Jessica Gadomski, Extension Educator, SNAP-Ed,