ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I love miso soup. I love the way it feeds a lot of people easily from one big pot. I also love that it’s easy to make extra to have simple heat-and-eat leftovers.
And you can feel good about eating soup because it’s naturally good for you, especially when homemade. When packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, protein and carbs, it can pile on more nourishment in a single bowl than many more complex meals.
But my favorite part is that soup can help you take off weight and keep it off. That’s because eating soup can help you feel full while eating fewer calories, which is key to long-term weight-loss success. The reason — soup (obviously not cream soups!) is considered a low energy-dense food, which means it provides more food for fewer calories, so you ultimately feel fuller.
One of my favorite soups is mushroom miso. I love it all year long, but especially this time of year, when there is a chill in the air.
There are a couple of tricks that make this soup great — and great for your weight. The soup is thick, but won’t thicken your waistline the way most high-fat creamy mushroom soups will. That’s because I use unctuous mushrooms, steeped to pull out all that wonderful flavor.
To build the soup base, I use miso, a traditional Asian ingredient. It’s a thick paste that adds body and savory, salty flavor to the soup. Miso technically is “fermented soybean paste,” but I’m glad we don’t call it that because I doubt we’d use it in cooking. Miso has a much better ring to it! Then I can super-charge the soup even more by adding some leafy greens to it, if I want.
To up the protein for an even more complete meal, add peeled shrimp to the soup. It’s the perfect pairing, nutritionally and flavor-wise. And you won’t upset the calorie balance by much. Adding just 3 ounces of shrimp adds only about 100 calories to the soup (25 calories a serving).
The soup is an amazing calorie deal anyway. Consider that a bowl of mushroom soup typically costs you 712 calories and 37 grams of fat. My version (sans shrimp) is only 78 calories with less than half a gram of fat. Add the shrimp and it’s only 103 calories! You can enjoy it as a filling meal or as a snack, and still keep your day’s calories in line.
Let it be duly noted that I just can’t get enough of this soup. Believe me, I could live on it and some crusty bread alone.
— Miso is available in numerous varieties. Generally, the lighter the color, the more mild the flavor. White miso is the most common at most grocers, but feel free to experiment with varieties to find a flavor you prefer. Also try mixing them. White and red are great together.
— The sodium level of miso can vary among the different varieties, so if you are watching your sodium intake, choose a variety with low sodium.
— This is a great soup base that you can add to. Try grated ginger for some zing, or try thinly sliced snow peas or fresh spinach for added fiber. You even can add some shrimp, diced tofu or fish for more protein.
MUSHROOM AND MISO SOUP
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 quart fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/4 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
10 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and cremini
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, water and dried shiitakes. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off, cover the pan and let sit for 10 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the softened mushrooms from the liquid. Cut off and discard any tough stems, then chop the mushrooms into large chunks.
Return the saucepan of broth to medium heat. Whisk in the miso and soy sauce, then add both the reconstituted and fresh mushrooms. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove the cover and bring the soup back to a simmer. Season with pepper, then ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each serving with scallions.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 87 calories; 0 g fat (0 percent of total calories, 0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 966 mg sodium.