The Science of Slimming, Satisfying, Sumptuous Soups


I love soups… Warm… Filling… Comforting… Psychologically Satisfying. What could be better right now than curling up with a hearty, delicious bowl of, say, Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Ginger, Michel Richard’s Chicken Mushroom and Barley Soup, Spiced Red Lentil Soup? And it doesn’t hurt that studies show soups make it very easy to lose weight.

Classic studies have found that as long as the volume of a food is high, people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the water content in three different first courses to see how it would affect peoples’ intake at the main course. The study subjects were fed either chicken rice casserole, chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water, or chicken rice soup, which is basically the casserole with water/broth added. They found the subjects who ate the soup consumed 26 percent less—about 100 calories fewer—at the main course, compared to the other conditions.

Researchers surmise that a large food volume caused by water, even without added calories, helps us feel more satisfied for several reasons. It causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness. Just seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it, even though the calories are relatively low. Finally, the larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, your satisfaction declines and you lose interest in completing it. Water is the component in food that has the largest influence on how much you eat. This study, and many others like it, finds eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course like soup enhances satisfaction and reduces overall calorie intake.

Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of broth-based vegetable soup or turn main courses into soups by adding water or broth. Save 200 calories a day! Do this every day and lose twenty pounds in one year. Wasn’t that SIMPLE? And oh, so painless!

Michel Richard’s Chicken, Mushroom and Barley Soup

4 servings

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Small Onions, Peeled and Diced
1 Pound Mushrooms, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Quarts Unsalted Chicken Stock (defatted)
2 Tbsp Lite Soy Sauce
6 Tbsp Pearl Barley
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
4 Large Chicken Breasts or Thighs, boned, skinned and sliced into bite-size pieces, at room temperature
About 1-1/2 Cup (about 3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until translucent for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms, increase heat to medium-high and cook uncovered until lightly browned, for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, barley and garlic. Simmer gently for 45 minutes to cook barley and then blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. (This can be prepared ahead, cooled, covered and set aside at cool room temperature for up to four hours or refrigerated for several days.)

To serve, bring the soup to a boil, add chicken, reduce heat and simmer just until the chicken becomes opaque, for about two to three minutes. Ladle into four soup plates. Pass Parmesan, if desired.
1,200 calories for the entire pot of soup

Michel Richard is the owner and chef of award-winning Michelle Richard Citronelle in Georgetown.

Cauliflower Vichyssoise

4 to 8 Servings

1 Tbsp Canola Oil
2 Leeks
1 Head Cauliflower
1 Medium Potato
6 Cups Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock), fat removed
1 Cup 1% Milk
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
8 leaves Fresh Parsley, Chopped

Slice the white part of the leeks, cut the cauliflower into florets and set aside. Heat canola oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, stirring frequently for about ten minutes until soft. Stir in the stock, cauliflower and potato. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about twenty minutes or until vegetables are soft. When mixture has cooled, puree in a blender or food processor, and add the milk. Serve hot in the cool weather, cold in the hot weather. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.
700 calories in the entire pot of soup

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., is passionate about helping people transform their health and their lives. Her book, Diet Simple, is called the “Un-Diet” by The Washington Post, and “The only good nutritionally balanced and easy-to-follow diet book” by Good Housekeeping Magazine. She also custom designs nutrition and weight loss programs. Find her book on Amazon

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