Low Calorie Comfort Food - It Exists!

January 5, 2011   16 Comments

There is more than one way to create comfort. One way involves lots of calories and icing.

Chicken Soup Recipe

How about something hot?

This won't work if you live in the tropics, but if you are in rural Massachusetts where I started my day at 10 degrees Fahrenheit - this will work!

A fantastic way to get the comfort you need is with a delicious soup. Most soups will only set you back about 100 calories for a cup and they are incredibly nutritious.

Soups in the grocery store come in boxes, cans, jars, and in the refrigerated case. My grocery store has its own soup label and it comes in a plastic container.

There are two things to remember when choosing a soup:

  1. Stay away from the cream soups (if you are watching your weight).
  2. Homemade soup is the BEST.

Yes, I am an advocate for homemade soup because it is ridiculously easy to make and it tastes better than the packaged kind. It is also inexpensive and you can keep your sodium levels under control.

BUT, I know there are some great packaged soups out there. True confession: I never buy packaged soups so I have no idea what to recommend (please help in comment section).

I make my own soup, and I do it often. Today, in fact, I will churn out my favorite chicken noodle soup which will make the house smell wonderful and sooth my sore throat.

It is my Martha Stewart moment of perfection in a world of dirty socks on the floor.

(don't get me started on the socks)

Below, I have shared my recipe that I have used 100's of times. The key to this recipe is that I make my own chicken stock. Why? Because it tastes SO much better than packaged stock (and I save money).

I use a chicken for both making the stock AND the soup. Basically, I simmer the chicken for 40 minutes to cook it, store it in the fridge, and then take the meat of the bones and add it to the soup.

This chicken soup recipe takes two days and is much more intense then the usual Snack Girl recipes. Trust me, it is worth the work.

The recipe below has a lot of pasta because I have children who love pasta. But, if you are watching your weight, you probably want to avoid the pasta. A serving size is going to vary a bit - but I would say between 1 1/2 to 2 cups of soup.

Here are the nutritional facts for one serving:

With the pasta:

304 calories, 4.3 g fat, 27.6 g carbohydrates, 36.1 g protein, 1.1 g fiber, 280 mg sodium

Without the pasta:

192 calories, 4.2 g fat, 3.0 g carbohydrates, 33.9 g protein, 0.7 g fiber, 280 mg sodium

Homemade Chicken Soup

(12 servings)

Chicken Stock (make one day ahead)
1 whole 3-4 pound chicken (rinsed and patted dry)
1 cup roughly chopped onion (no need to peel)
1 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 pinch dried thyme
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
14 cups of water (3 1/2 quarts)
Combine all ingredients in stock pot and add water. Bring to a boil, and then adjust heat so that the mixture sends up a few bubbles at a time. Cook until the chicken is done (about 40 minutes). Strain into a large bowl and press on vegetables to get out as much stock. Refrigerate overnight so that you can remove the fat which will harden at the surface of the liquid.

Chicken Soup
Chicken Stock from day before (about 12-14 cups)
2 cups pasta (Rotini is a good shape for this)
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices
4 celery stalks, minced
3-4 pound chicken from day before
Salt and Pepper to taste
Remove fat from surface of stock with a spoon. Cut chicken meat off the carcass and chop. Pour stock into large, deep saucepan or casserole and bring to a boil. Adjust heat so that the stock simmers. Add the pasta, carrot, celery and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Add cooked chicken and adjust seasonings. I usually add a lot of salt at this step because I find the soup at this point to be pretty bland.

Anyone have a favorite soup? Packaged and recipe suggestions please!.

Want to read about snacks?
The Worst Snack of 2010
Holiday Weight Gain: Fact or Fiction?
Amazing Toddler Snacks From La Jolla Mom
Make Winter Warmer With Apple and Peanut Butter Oatmeal

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Looks delish. Hope that sore throat of yours feels better soon.

Thanks, Rochel. Not to kvetch, but it feels like it is never going to leave. waaaah.

I've liked every "Amy's Kitchen" soup that I've tried. They're vegetarian and I'm not so I often toss in some shredded chicken (or other meat) leftovers but they really are fine without it. Most store bought soups have too many "what the heck is that?" ingredients but not Amy's kitchen.

My favorite homemade soup is neither low calorie nor low fat so I've spare you my corn chowder recipe.

To clarify the stock recipe - you boil the whole chicken with vegetables, and then just keep the boiling water after done (throw out the veggies)? Do you leave the whole chicken sitting in the liquid overnight?

I love lemon chicken orzo soup! I generally follow Ellie Krieger's recipe, minus the eggs, because I usually screw that part up. Sometimes I add just a dash of cream to the pot right at the end, when I'm being bad. :)

(not my website, but… )

Your recipe sounds sooooo good. It will be just right during these chilly winter days. Thanks!

Just had some homemade potato leek soup for lunch. Leeks and potatoes cooked in low sodium chicken broth and blended with an immersion blender. Looks creamy but doesn't have any dairy. The hardest part of the recipe is washing the leeks.

Snack Girl - AVOID the pasta? Why not just reduce the amount of pasta? First, I expect that without the pasta the soup will lose much of it's "comfort" which is the subject of your post. Secondly, we need those starchy complex carbohydrates for energy production. Finally, as soon as we tell ourselves we can't have something, the brain wants it, and cutting out foods sets people up for diet failure because it's too strict.

Kelly - re: stock

Snack girl is absolutely right - no canned stock can hold a candle to homemade stock!

So, to answer your question, you toss the chicken and vegetables because all of their flavor has been infused into the water. The chicken will be dry, flavorless, and tough. The vegetables will be mushy and flavorless.

Also, for cost reasons, I would never use a whole chicken. I roast a chicken and then take the good meat off the bone for a meal or to add to casseroles, soups, tacos, etc. You get the same results using bones and the attached scraps of meat.

Another trick is to cut boneless skinless breasts off of a whole chicken and then use the left over carcass for your stock.

Either way, be sure to start with cold water and don't let it come to a full rolling boil because then you'll end up with a couldy stock. Also, when my students first see their cooled stock, they are often shocked because it's gelatinized. That's a good thing-don't be afraid of it.


A lot of the Select Harvest Light soups and Progresso Light soups are 50 calories per cup (the full can being 18.6oz which is more than 2 cups so the FULL can's amount of calories is about 125) They are very good and have some vegetarian options.

@Kelly - I toss the veggies and keep the chicken wrapped in foil and use it. I keep the stock (water) in a bowl with plastic wrap over it. Because I only simmered the chicken for 40 minutes it still tastes pretty good and is juicy.

@Melanie - I was trying - and perhaps I should do so explicitly - to give a range of calories for the soup. I agree with you that the carbohydrates are comforting and important. I assumed most people would put in some pasta - maybe not as much as I do. Hopefully this makes sense. Thanks for your comment.

Most Campbell's soups have MSG (bah!), which can give me migraines so that's out. But Safeway's packaged soups are the BEST if you have one around. I wish they hadn't discontinued their crab/corn chowder (though that wasn't exactly health food ^_^;;), but their chili and other soups are still amazing.

Seconding the Amy's soup suggestion. I think their spicy chili and the lentil soup with coconut are the best!

I really need to start making my own stock again. Tasting homemade stock for the first time is amazing. Making rice pilaf with it is heavenly!

Cream of Mushroom soup is my favorite! Do you know of any healthy, low-cal home made recipes for this?

I make a similar chicken soup, only I use No Yolks extra broad egg noodles instead of traditional pasta...they're 99% fat free and taste great in the soup.

Great tip by the way on letting thet stock sit in the fridge over night so you can scoop off the fat...hadn't thought of that!

@ JoAnn... I make 'cream' of mushroom soup using the homemade chicken stock.

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (i like the brown crimini

2 stalks celery, diced
1 sm onion, diced
2 cloves garlic smashed
6-8 C stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
optional: croutons to top off the soup

1 Heat 2 tbs olive oil in stock pot. Saute

chopped onion and celery until slightly limp.

Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until they

give up their water. Add the smashed garlic.

Continue sauteing for 2-3 mintues.

2. Add the chicken stock and gently simmer for

20 minutes until vegies are soft.

3. Blend with immersion blender, season to taste

and enjoy! At this point you can add cream or

half & half if you want the creammy feel.

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