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Cook Smart;Tuscan;Tuscan Vegetable Soup;USA Weeke
This is Ellie Krieger’s Tuscan Vegetable Soup. / Photo by Renee Comet for USA WEEKEND. Food Styling by Lisa Cherkasky.

When it’s chilly outside, there’s no more satisfying way to get your vegetables than in a big, belly-warming bowl of soup. This Italian-style recipe is packed with six vegetable varieties — plus beans — making it an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A and C, and a good source of protein and minerals — all for less than 150 calories a serving. Mashing some of the beans before putting them in the soup thickens the herb-infused broth, giving it a hearty body.

Start your meal with soup and you could wind up consuming 20% fewer calories at your meal overall but feel just as content, reports research in the journal Appetite.

You also can make this a supper in itself by having a larger portion with whole-grain bread. I like to whip up a double batch on the weekend and freeze some to have on busy weeknights. However you serve it, this dish is sure to be filling and fulfilling.

Terrific Tuscan Vegetable Soup

• One 15.5-ounce can cannellini or other small white beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
• 1 Tb. olive oil
• ½ large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
• 1 medium carrot, diced (about ½ cup)
• 2 stalks celery, diced (about ½ cup)
• 1 small zucchini (about ½ pound), diced (about 1½ cups)
• 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
• 1 Tb. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
• 2 tsps. chopped fresh sage or ½ tsp. dried
• ½ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
• 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
• One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
• 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups lightly packed), chopped
• 1/3 cup freshly grated 1/3 Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a small bowl, mash half of the beans with a masher or the back of a spoon; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Add the mashed and whole beans and the spinach leaves; cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes more.

Serve topped with the Parmesan, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Per serving: 143 calories, 20g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 4g fat (0.5g saturated), 5g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 323mg sodium

Recipe reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press Inc., from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger. Copyright by Ellie Krieger.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.