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Slurping up the Health Benefits of Soups

Soups are a great addition to any diet, anytime of the year. But there’s something about the cooler months, that makes soup extra special. Whether it’s a side dish, a main meal, served hot, served cold, soups can be incredibly versatile. From chicken noodle, French onion, minestrone, miso or a plain old tomato soup, there’s a flavour and texture to suit every tastebud. But for a delicious soup to be a nutritious meal, it needs to consist of more than chicken broth and noodles to reap the health benefits. Our Dietitians explain further on what to look out for and how to include soups as part of your Aged Care or Childcare Menu.


the Health Benefits of Soups on a Aged Care and Childcare menu

Not all soups are souper douper…

Soups are a fantastic way to increase the variety of nutrients in one's diet as so many different ingredients can be added to the one dish. Soups can be blended into a smooth texture or made with noodles, pasta, or grains and include chunks of meat, beans, and/or vegetables.


The 3 main nutrients we want to keep in mind when looking at soups is the amount of salt, energy and protein.


  1. Salt. Some soups, especially premade soups, can be high in salt. Excessive salt intake can increase the risk of several conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes.

  2. Energy. Another thing to considered is the energy or calorie/kilojoule content. Creamy soups tend to be higher in energy whereas water and stock-based soups tend to be lower in energy. Whether the energy content is too high or too low will be highly dependent on the nutritional needs of the individual person.

  3. Protein. Protein content is also worth considering when preparing soups. Ensure there is adequate protein per serve from sources such as meat, beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, and dairy.


8 ways to beef up your soups!

8 ways to beef up your soups!

Here’s 8 ways to increase the flavour and nutritional value of a soup.


Use Herbs and Spices to reduce Salt intake. Excessive salt intake can increase the risk of several conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. Add herbs and spices to reduce in added salt and to increase the flavour. 


Use salt reduced / low sodium stocks. We want control the amount of salt within the soup when preparing food for Residents and children. Therefore, electing to use salt reduced or low sodium stocks is a better option when unable to make your own stocks.


Add Beans, Lentils and Legumes. Adding plant-based protein sources is another way to increase the nutritional value of the meal as well as a hearty texture and flavour.


Increase the variety of vegetables. Especially when vegetables are simmering in a pot where all the nutrition is retained, so you can’t go wrong with choosing a variety of vegetables to capture the range of key nutrients. Whether it’s a creamy, a clear broth or a blended puree, soups are great way to hide a variety of vegetables.


Brown or Sear the Meat before adding it to the soup. Including lean meat options within your soups is one way to ensure there’s enough protein within the meal. To enhance the flavour, sear or brown it in a sauté pan before you add it to the soup. This adds a deeper savory flavour to the whole soup.


Try roasting the vegetables before adding it the soup Similar to searing meat, try roasting your vegetables before adding them to the soup for a more complex taste.


Add fresh herbs or dairy when serving A dollop of Greek yoghurt when serving can cool off a spicy soup (while adding the benefits of protein and calcium) or balance the sweetness in soups made with a lot of root vegetables. Sprinkle with fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or coriander is another way to increase flavour to improve the visual appearance of the soup.


Mixing it up with different grain choices e.g. barley, quinoa, etc. Why not, swap out pasta and rice for Barley or quinoa. Whole grains have higher fibre content than pasta and white rice, and because they’re slowly digested, they have less impact on blood levels of insulin than refined grains.

safe temperature for soups for Aged Care Residents and young children

Caution I’m hot!

First and foremost, ensure soup is cooked and served at a safe temperature. This includes not just the liquid but the internal temperature of any meat and vegetable chunks to prevent a sore, burnt mouth. Also, ensuring it is cooked hot enough to ensure it is meeting food safety standards. Residents with cognitive impairments or young children may have difficulty identifying if food is too hot so temperature checking prior to serving is essential. Children are at a greater risk of splashing or spilling soup too, therefore the child’s safety around hot liquid is important.  


The actual temperature to serve food will vary on each resident or child. The Kitchen must serve the soup no cooler than 60C to meet Food Safety Standards.


How Soups can increase Resident’s Energy and Protein intake in Aged Care

Energy and protein intake is an important factor of meal planning in residential Aged Care homes, ensuring residents receive adequate intake to prevent unplanned weight loss and maintain muscle mass. Soups can be a great tool for residents with poor appetites as they are often easier to consume than heavy main meals. However, it is essential to ensure the soup has adequate energy and protein.


Creamy soups are often more energy dense than water-based soups. Soups can be made extra energy dense by adding extra cheese, cream, milk, milk powder, or olive oil, and extra protein can be added by including a meat source or a meat alternative such as nuts, beans, lentils, or legumes. It is also important to ensure the soup portion of a main meal is not displacing the main portion. If residents consume the soup INSTEAD of the main meal, they may require additional support to ensure they are meeting their energy and protein intake as they are unlikely to be able to do this through soup alone. If a resident is consuming less than 50% of their main meal, a Dietitian can assist in finding ways to optimise their oral intake to meet their requirements.


Residents on Fluid Restrictions. Another factor to keep in mind is for individuals who are on a daily fluid restriction. Soups will count as part of their daily fluid intake and the rest of their fluid intake will need to be adjusted accordingly.


Residents on Texture Modified Diets

Soup can be a risk factor for choking due to the often-mixed texture. There is usually a combination of a liquid, drinkable component, mixed with chunky and often chewy additions. This mixture can be a choking risk for anyone with a chewing and/or swallowing impairment e.g., someone who has recently had a stroke, or individual with a dementia diagnosis.


Specifically for individuals who require a texture modified diet. Soups will need to be blended into one smooth and consistent texture to reduce choking risk. Furthermore, soups may need to be thickened by using less liquid, adding thickened cream, or using a thickening agent, depending on the required level of thickness for individuals who also require thickened fluids.

Soups can often be served safely to individuals with special dietary requirements. A Dietitian and Speech Pathologist can help to ensure your soup is nutritionally adequate and a safe texture.



Soups for the win in childcare and families with fussy easters

Soups are an easy way of ensuring children get plenty of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein in their diet in one easy bowl! Loaded with sneaky vegetables, legumes or meat as the main staple and cooked in one pot, ensures all the nutritional goodness remains in every mouthful to help growing bodies.

Soups are also a great idea for introducing new foods to children as they can be blended in small portions and then gradually increased to help a child become used to new and unfamiliar flavours.


In the cooler months, we trend to drink water less often. Soup always contains a good amount of water so they’re great for keeping children hydrated in the colder months.  

Soup is a really easy way to include some extra veggies into children’s diet without them even knowing it’s there. Vegetables can be blended and hidden into soups, which is a particularly great tool for fussy eaters as they can’t pick out the bits they don’t like.


Tips for Childcare when serving soups

  • Serve with wholemeal bread or crackers to allow children to dip and explore when trying new soups. 

  • Thicker soups may be easier for children to feed themselves compared to thinner soups.

  • Blend array of vegetables to stop those picky eaters from removing unwanted vegetables.

  • If portions of soups are not being blended ensure non blended ingredients are chopped into pieces of a safe size to reduce risk of chocking.



Soup’s Up!

Let’s all enjoy a bowl of soup this winter! Maybe with a side of wholemeal bread for dipping or simply slurp straight from the bowl. Create delicious and nutritious soups as part of your menus. It’s a simple way for children, families, and Aged Care Residents to increase veggie intake, protein, flavour, and add variety to their meals.


If you require assistance on modifying soups to be healthier or safer, our Dietitians and Speech Pathologists are here to help. Our experienced team can help with your Aged Care Menus, Childcare Menus, training and educational sessions, recipes and so much more.



 

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