Several studies show that soup eaters end up weighing less than those who don’t eat much soup, according to Penn State nutrition professor Barbara Rolls, co-author of “Volumetrics: Feel Full on Fewer Calories.”
“Incorporating soups into a weight-management plan can really help save calories,” she notes. She also likes it as a snack: “When you get the munchies, it’s much better to have some soup than to go to the candy machine.”
The soup effect has been demonstrated again and again over the past 30 years:
• In a 1980s University of Pennsylvania study, 500 people in a weight-loss program noted each meal they ate for 10 weeks. Some were told to eat soup at least four times a week. The soup eaters ate fewer calories — on average, 100 less per day — and lost the most weight.
• In a Baylor University College of Medicine study, Dr. John Foreyt asked a group of overweight men and women on a low-calorie diet to eat soup every day. They liked it — and were better able to maintain their weight loss than non-soup-eaters.
• At Penn State, Dr. Rolls’ group gave women a 270-calorie first course before lunch. Some got chicken-rice casserole, others got the casserole plus 10 ounces of water. A third group received chicken-rice soup made from the casserole ingredients plus the water. Soup eaters took in about 100 calories fewer at the meal — and they didn’t eat more at dinner.
• In her latest studies, Rolls and colleagues found that the hunger-suppressing benefits of soup last a full two hours.
• In Paris, researchers at the Laboratory of the Neurobiology of Nutrition confirmed that water with a meal doesn’t affect how full people feel — but having the same ingredients as soup does.
Is Soup Unique? Not At All
Eat any filling, low-calorie food as an appetizer or first course, and you’ll likely make it easier to consume fewer calories at that meal. It’s a kind of preemptive eating strategy. Make substitutions you like, ones that can become part of your life.
• Eat an apple or an orange before you go to lunch.
• Order melon as a first course.
• Start with a simple salad of baby spinach leaves and grapefruit segments.
• When you go to the salad bar, fill up your plate with “big” foods like dark leafy greens and vegetables, before going back for more calorically dense choices.
Find Creative Ways to Add More Veggies
• When making pasta sauce, limit the meat and add another onion and a chopped bell pepper or two. Or stir a couple handfuls of baby spinach in at the end of cooking.
• Add diced cooked sweet potato or green peas to pilafs or noodle dishes.
• When cooking a favorite stir-fry, double the vegetable quantity and cut the meat by half.
• Add corn kernels to chili or burrito fillings.
Soup + Walking = 20 Fewer Pounds
“Small changes make a big difference,” says John Foreyt, Ph.D., director of the nutrition research clinic at Baylor University’s College of Medicine in Houston. “For many people, small changes over time are more sensible and more effective than big changes. I like the 100/100 rule,” he says. “Eat 100 calories less tomorrow, and expend an extra 100 calories in physical activity, such as 20 minutes of walking.” In the course of a year, he notes, such a change may make a difference of 20 pounds.