Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
The key to turning soup into a near-perfect meal for active bodies is to jam them full of smart proteins and nutrient-dense vegetables, minus the deluge of caloric creams or belly-bloating sodium. Start with these recipes where each soup is guaranteed to be a square meal – that just happens to fit in a round bowl. So grab a spoon, and get ready to be bowled over.
Chilled Peach Yogurt Soup
Ready in 15 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Want to boost your protein even higher? Serve this soup with some grilled fish for a perfect — and power-packed — summer meal.
Antioxidants Plus! Juicy seasonal peaches lend this frosty soup sweetness along with age-avenging antioxidants to wage war against cell-damaging free radicals in your body.
Texture and Taste! Think beyond snack time when it comes to protein-packed Greek yogurt. In cold soups, it adds great creamy texture, not to mention some tummy-friendly probiotics.
Flab Buster! Despite somewhat lofty calorie counts, studies show that crunching your way through more nuts can help keep belly flab at bay. Thank a synergy of nutritional goodness, including protein, fiber and vital minerals, for their fat-torching powers.
Chef Tip: Cold soups are best served in cold bowls. About 15 minutes before serving, place bowls in the refrigerator to cool down.
- ½ cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 pound ripe peaches (about 3 medium), chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
- ½ English cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup prepared pesto
- ¼ cup chopped almonds or pistachios
1. Place buttermilk, yogurt, peaches, orange pepper, cucumber, ginger, lemon zest, garlic and salt in blender container and blend until smooth. With the machine running on low speed, slowly drizzle in olive oil through the top. Place soup in container and chill for at least two hours.
2. Divide soup among serving bowls and garnish with pesto and almonds.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 241, total fat 13 g, saturated fat 2 g, trans fat 0 g, sodium 256 mg, carbs 23 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 14 g, protein 11 g
Chicken Quinoa Soup
Ready in 20 minutes
Makes 4 servings
High in Taste, Low in Calories! Researchers at the University of Iowa determined that people who enjoy soups more often tend to be less likely to be overweight. A satisfying bowl of soup can provide plenty of nutrition for fewer calories than many other meal options.
Great Grain! Packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, think of quinoa as a nutritional upgrade to the standard noodles used in most chicken soup.
Super-Easy Protein! Supermarket rotisserie chicken is an ultra-convenient method to infusing soup with top-notch protein to help you nail that bikini-ready physique. Look for a no-sodium label.
Chef Tip: Don’t just pitch the chicken carcass — use it for DIY soup stock. Simply place the picked-over carcass in a large saucepan along with a quartered onion, chopped carrot and celery stalk, and a couple of bay leaves. Cover with water and gently simmer for a couple of hours.
Leftover Magic! When soups are stored in the refrigerator, flavor compounds in the meats and aromatics like onions react with liquids, air or acids and are chemically transformed into new and improved taste sensations.
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 carton (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup quinoa
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and ½ teaspoon salt; heat six minutes. Stir in tomato paste and Creole or Cajun seasoning and thyme; heat 30 seconds. Place broth and quinoa in pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered until quinoa is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in chicken and warm through.
2. Place soup in serving bowls and garnish with parsley.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 315, total fat 9 g, saturated fat 1 g, trans fat 0 g, sodium 283 mg, carbs 29 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 4 g, protein 29 g
Ginger Pork Meatball Soup
Ready in 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Faster Recovery! Ginger infuses this soup with compounds that may lessen inflammation in the body for better health and recovery from your time in the gym.
Green Giants! Small but mighty baby greens such as kale or spinach are a hassle-free way (read: no chopping required) to add a nutritional bounty to soups.
Lean and Mean! More flavorful than ground chicken, pork has all the protein your muscles need to look their best. If you’re watching your fat intake, opt for ground meat labeled “lean.”
- 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 onion, chopped1 large carrot, chopped
- 4 cups baby greens
- grated zest of 1 lemon
1. Place ginger and 5 cups boiled water in blender container and let stand 20 minutes. Blend until ginger is pulverized.
2. In large bowl, combine ground pork, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, cumin and black pepper. By the heaping tablespoon full, form into balls, about 18 total.
3. In large saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook for five minutes. Add ginger broth and bring to a simmer. Drop in pork balls and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon zest.
4. Divide baby greens among serving bowls and ladle in soup. Garnish with fresh black pepper.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 443, total fat 30 g, saturated fat 11 g, trans fat 0 g, sodium 507 mg, carbs 17 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 3 g, protein 25 g
Curry Salmon Soup
Ready in 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Oh-Mega! Salmon harbors a boatload of omega-3 fats, which can reduce muscle pain in response to training and may even help make building lean body mass an easier undertaking.
Rev It Up! The bounty of vitamin A in sweet potatoes can rev up your immune system so you can hit the gym feeling better than ever.
Muscle Power! Perhaps Popeye was right after all. Swedish researchers found that compounds in spinach may increase muscle power by improving force of contraction.
Chef Tip: When turning to leftover soup for a meal, add a thin layer of broth to the bottom of a saucepan, bring to a simmer, add the leftovers and then warm over moderate heat. The hot liquid will reduce risk of burning ingredients and cut down on reheating time. Simmering for too long on a high heat will evaporate liquid and steal away precious flavor as well as ruin the texture of vegetables and proteins like salmon.
- 2 teaspoons coconut, grapeseed or canola oil
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken or fish broth
- 1 pound skinless salmon, cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
- ½ cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- juice of ½ lime
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and ginger to pan; heat two minutes. Stir in curry powder, chili powder and ½ teaspoon salt; heat 30 seconds. Add sweet potato, coconut milk and broth to pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered until potatoes are fork-tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
2. Gently stir in salmon and heat with a very slight simmer until fish is cooked through, about five minutes. Stir in tomatoes and spinach; heat one minute. Stir in lime juice.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 424, total fat 26 g, saturated fat 9 g, trans fat 0 g, sodium 578 mg, carbs 22 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 4 g, protein 28 g
Roasted Beet Red Pepper Soup
Ready in 40 minutes
Makes 4 servings
Pace Setter! Nitrates in beets have been shown to improve how efficiently muscles use oxygen during exercise to help you keep up the pace.
Fit Fiber! Stealthfully blending in beans adds hearty texture along with a shot of hunger-quelling dietary fiber.
No-Fuss Muscle Builder! Ready-to-go pouched tuna is a no-fuss way to add a layer of muscle-sculpting protein. But consider splurging for a brand like Wild Planet that packs only sustainable tuna with less contaminant risk.
Oven-Blasted! Roasting the vegetables elevates their natural sweetness and lets you keep the saucepan shelved.
Chef Tip: The flavor of most pureed soups like this one only gets better after a day or two chilling in the fridge. So make it anytime you have a free moment and spoon up the rewards down the road.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
- 2 large beets, cubed
- 2 large red bell peppers, sliced into quarters
- 1 red onion, sliced into 1-inch wedges
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup canned navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 (3-ounce) tuna pouches, drained
- 4 tablespoon chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss beets, red pepper, onion and garlic with oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are darkened and tender. If needed, remove red pepper, onion and garlic from pan and continue roasting beets.
2. Place roasted vegetables, broth, beans, lemon juice, honey, thyme and paprika in blender container and blend until smooth. Heat soup in saucepan or microwave if not warm enough straight from blender.
3. Serve topped with tuna and chives.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 309, total fat 8 g, saturated fat 1 g, trans fat 0 g, sodium 466 mg, carbs 39 g, fiber 7 g, sugar 19 g, protein 26 g