How to Make a Healthy Chicken Soup

Chicken rice soup with vegetables in bowl and bread on rustic table

Show of hands – who remembers chicken soup as a staple growing up?

It seems as if chicken soup was the ultimate cure-all. Cold from being outside? Chicken soup. Feeling under the weather? Chicken soup. Broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Chicken soup.

Maybe it was Grandma’s recipe, full of ingredients so secret that nobody had ever written them down – they had just learned how to make it in each generation. Or maybe it was straight out of a familiar red can that instantly made you feel comforted.

Regardless, chicken soup was (as the saying goes) good for the soul.

Now, you may have noticed that I’m missing a word in all those references to chicken soup. That’s on purpose because as much as they may have been part of the recipes of the past, it remains now that noodles just don’t fit a healthy lifestyle.

Obviously, you can still include them if that’s part of the chicken soup’s whole “comfort-food” aspect. But if you want the benefits without the carbs, here are some tips on how to make a healthy chicken soup.

Choose your poultry wisely

Some people like to cut up a chicken breast for their soup because it is one of the most manageable portions to dice up and toss in the pot. But I think you lose flavor with that.

Think about using bone-in chicken thighs instead. Remove the skin first (just fat that will melt and cause a grease slick on your soup). Or, if you don’t want to hassle straining it for the bones, use boneless, skinless thighs.

Don’t skimp on the broth

It’s easier to use those bouillon cubes or boxed broth as a base, right? Maybe easier, but not healthier. Even the low-sodium boxed broth can contain extreme amounts. It’s much better to control adding salt as you cook.

Plan ahead

Buy a whole chicken, butcher it, and throw the bone pieces (legs, wings, neck, etc.) in water with spices, onions, carrots, and simmer for a few hours. Remove the meat (to be used in the soup later) and strain the liquid into a jar. Seal it and refrigerate it overnight.

I guarantee that the flavor will be much better than anything pre-made in a cube or from a box – and it is decidedly healthier.

Ditch the noodles.

This is one of the easiest ways to make a healthy chicken soup. Pasta is full of bad carbs. There are ingredients that you can substitute, such as zoodles or cabbage noodles. Or go entirely without.

Increase the veggies.

vegetables on the cutting board

The chicken soup I remember had celery and carrots, and maybe some onion in it. And that was it in terms of veggies. But there are several other types of veggies you can add to make your chicken soup even healthier.

Spinach or kale are leafy greens that are full of vitamins and nutrients. Yes, they will get stewed down a little, but if you add them late in the cooking process, they’ll still maintain most of their “goodness.”

If you are feeling adventurous, try adding mushrooms, bell pepper, or chunks of zucchini. Experiment with your favorites and see which ones hold up best in the soup.

Spice it up.

Spices and herbs in wooden bowls. Food and cuisine ingredients.

I don’t know about you, but I like my chicken soup to have a little bit of kick in it. A lot of times, people add salt and say, “that’s it.” But increasing sodium can lead to other health issues (like high blood pressure).

Make it savory

Think of the Simon and Garfunkel song: try parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme. Basil, bay leaf, and dill can also give your soup depth of flavor.

Give it a kick

Like things on the hotter side? Try curry powder, cinnamon, chili powder, or paprika to enhance the heat in your soup.

Be adventurous

Play around with spices like ginger, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, saffron, or allspice, and you may hit on a winning flavor combination that is out of the ordinary!

Give it time

As with making the broth (above), the best soups cook low and slow, giving the flavors time to develop. Using this method will also keep you from over-seasoning the soup, as you will be able to accurately judge taste instead of just salting the heck out of it and hurrying along the cooking process.

Freeze it

Make a big batch of soup and freeze portions for future use once you have figured out your favorite combinations of veggies and spices. You never know when you’ll be in the middle of a hectic day. Having healthy chicken soup on hand to heat up quickly is better than stopping at a drive-thru.

So, take your time, be adventurous, and create a new, healthy chicken soup recipe that will be handed down to future generations!

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