If you’re seeking new ways to connect with your kids — and help them learn to really enjoy eating nutritious foods — get into the kitchen and make some soup.
Winter is an especially wonderful time to gather your favorite ingredients and your meal prep helpers and fill your home with the mouthwatering aroma of homemade soup. Chicken noodle, cream of broccoli, lentil, even a hearty chili are all relatively easy to make. And, as a bonus, they’re great for using up leftovers, too.
Worried that you’ll spend a lot of time and effort only to have your child reject that steaming bowl of soup? The key is to get your child involved. Helping them connect the dots between spending quality time with you and the taste of healthy foods will reinforce the feel-good factor for them.
Do it often enough and you’re well on your way to raising a kid who enjoys the taste of healthy, home-cooked foods, says the American Academy of Pediatrics parent site, healthychildren.org.
“Kids may need to have frequent joyful experiences involving food to overcome the anxiety they may have around tasting the unfamiliar,” the site says. “Over time, cooking with your children can help build that confidence — and provide rich sensory experiences.”
This article maintains that cooking together and prioritizing health over convenience (think processed foods and drive-thrus) help your kids buy into a “culture of wellness” that they can take with them long after they move out and build families of their own.
Soups are a great way to provide your family with balanced nutrition because you can include vegetables, whole grains and proteins for a complete meal. Toppings like nuts, seeds, cheese, sour cream and dried fruits can add to the nutritional value of your soup, too. Visit myplate.gov for more information and ideas for combining nutritious foods to create satisfying healthy meals.
Ready to get started? Here are some tips, tricks and soup recipes to get you and your family into the kitchen to stir up a healthful pot of soup.
The basics of great soup
Each culture or region has its own way of making soup, but all soup versions have pretty much the same basic structure. The best soup is a combination of all of your favorite ingredients — vegetables, meats, beans, even pasta or noodles — plus herbs and spices, all cooked together in a broth. The broth adds a salty or spicy flavor and can be made from chicken, beef, fish, vegetables or tomatoes.
Generally speaking, soups start with a combination of chopped vegetables, often referred to as a mirepoix or sofrito or one of several other names, depending upon the region or culture. Ask your own grandparents what they call this mix of onions, garlic, celery, carrots, bell peppers and various other ingredients.
Whatever you have in your fridge will work, but don’t miss this first step of chopping and sauteing vegetables in butter or oil over low heat.
Once you’ve completed this first step, add your broth and other ingredients and simmer over low heat. In no time at all, you’ll have something tasty and warm to enjoy.
Shortcuts to try
Make the path from cutting board to finished soup even more simple by using a slow cooker. Start early in the day, add your ingredients, then come back several hours later to a complete meal, ready to enjoy.
Or, if you want that slow-cooked flavor without the time investment, consider using an instant pot, which is the electric version of a pressure cooker, that can cut hours of cooking time and yield a great soup in 30 minutes or less.
Soup recipes just right for families
Start with a simple vegetable soup, and yes, you can use frozen vegetables. Or find a favorite family recipe and get cooking!
Here are some simple soup recipes to get you started. We’re pretty sure several of these (if not all!) will quickly become family favorites.
- Do your kids prefer a creamier soup texture? Try this cream of vegetable soup recipe that calls for frozen mixed vegetables and milk or half-and-half. You can even make it creamier by adding your favorite cheese until it melts.
- Use up last night’s leftover chicken breast, add some fresh vegetables and whole milk and you’ll have a whole new take on a family favorite with this creamy chicken noodle soup. The secret ingredient is cream cheese, and it adds a lovely velvety texture!
- Richly colored vegetables are so good for us because of the antioxidants they have, and butternut squash is in that category. It’s even better when it’s pureed into a soup. Try this cream and cheesy butternut squash soup, served with a crusty loaf of bread and a crisp green salad, and see if your family agrees.
- Za’atar is a blend of spices and herbs that adds a lovely Middle Eastern flavor to soups and other dishes. It’s widely available at grocery stores, so give it a try in this creamy roasted root vegetable soup with za’atar.
- If your kids like tacos, they’ll love this soup version that blends all of the flavors of chicken tacos with cheese and tomatoes and peppers into a very spoonable chicken taco soup. Add some tortilla chips and sour cream if you like!
- Why limit your soup enjoyment to savory offerings? Try this unique strawberry basil soup any time of the day for a refreshing treat that’s healthy and a little bit fun.
Check out the recipes section of Milk Means More for dozens of other recipes and inspiration for your family soup nights.
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