Eating vegetable soup is a great way to get your daily veggies, but to keep it low in carbs, don’t randomly grab any old can of soup off the shelf. Commercially prepared soups have more carbs than a homemade soup made with fresh vegetables. Don’t worry though, a basic vegetable soup is quick and simple to make. And if you fix a big pot, you’ll have it ready to enjoy on those days during the week when you don’t feel like cooking.
You can choose almost any vegetable from the list of foods allowed on your low-carb plan and turn them into soup. A big bowl overflowing with spinach, button mushrooms, snap peas, bell peppers and celery provides about 9 grams of net carbs -- total carbs minus fiber. Be careful if you add onion or garlic. You’ll get 2 grams of net carbs from 2 tablespoons of chopped onion. The same portion of minced garlic has 5 grams.
To make a pot of vegetable soup that yields about six servings, begin by chopping a pound of fresh vegetables. Sauté them in olive oil, but don’t let them get soft. This step mostly adds a layer of flavor, so you could skip it if you’re in a hurry. Add about 4 cups of broth and simmer until the veggies are tender or al dente -- slightly firm -- if you prefer. Voila, you have vegetable soup.
You can use beef, chicken or vegetable broth, but go with beef or chicken to keep carbs down. They don’t have any net carbs, while a cup of vegetable broth has 3 grams. To add flavor without boosting carbs, choose from seasonings such as bay leaf, celery salt, curry powder and Italian seasoning.
Low-Carb Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup
Cauliflower and unsweetened soy or almond milk form a creamy base for broccoli soup. Begin by sautéing a small amount of chopped onion in olive oil. Add unsweetened soy or almond milk and chopped cauliflower, then simmer until the cauliflower is soft. Blend the broth in a food processor until the lumps of cauliflower are gone, then add chopped broccoli and simmer until it’s tender. A bowl that contains 1/2 cup of broccoli and a cup each of cooked cauliflower and almond milk has about 6 grams of net carbs.
Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of the soup after it’s scooped into a bowl and ready to be served. Try some Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss or feta; they’ll add up to 1 gram of net carbohydrate per ounce. You could also top your soup with a little chopped bacon.
Carbs in Tomato-Based Vegetable Soup
Tomatoes create a natural base for vegetable soups, but watch portions because tomato broth is higher in carbs than other types of broth. Gazpacho, a vegetable soup served cold, is based on a broth of tomatoes and tomato juice. A bowl that holds half of a chopped tomato, 1/2 cup each of bell pepper and cucumber, a touch of onion and 1 cup of tomato juice contains roughly 13 grams of net carbs.
If 13 grams of net carbs sounds too high, bring the carb count down by replacing some or all of the tomato juice with a low-carb marinara sauce. On the flip side, phase 1 of the Atkins diet recommends getting 12 to 15 grams of net carbs from vegetables, which means you could fill your daily requirement with one bowl of gazpacho. However, tomato-based soups probably fit better into a low-carb diet that allows more than 20 grams of carbs daily.
Substitutions and Tips
You may be able to find some specially-formulated low-carb soups in the grocery store. If not, check the label on other soups and subtract the fiber from total carbs to get net carbs per serving. The Atkins Carb Counter shows that a 1-cup serving of various types of commercially-available mushroom, vegetable and tomato soups have 11 to more than 20 grams of net carbs. These soups may or may not work in your diet plan, depending on your carb restriction.
Better yet, use the blended cauliflower base to make a creamy mushroom or celery soup. Green leafy vegetables, like escarole, watercress, arugula and bok choy have fewer carbs than most other veggies. Toss them into the soup near the end of cooking, giving them enough time to barely soften without overcooking.
If your low-carb diet includes nuts, remove some of the veggies from the broth and blend them in a food processor with macadamia nuts or walnuts, then mix them back in with the soup. Along with adding rich flavor, they’ll thicken the base.