Lunch Break: 10 Healthy Soups Around DC

Warm up with these delicious, hearty soups at our favorite lunch spots.

Although most soups contain high amounts of sodium, the good news is that plenty of them make up for it by offering a wealth of nutrients from veggies. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Although this winter has been unseasonably warm, we’re bound to get a cold snap or two. Soup is not only the perfect meal to warm your insides, but it’s also a great way to lose weight, eat more vegetables and fiber, and create a balanced meal.

We asked Jill Weisenberger to help us pick the best soup options at Au Bon Pain, Cosí, Corner Bakery, Panera Bread, and Pret A Manger.

When seeking soup, keep your goals in mind. If you’re just hungry, go for something with beans or good fiber sources; if you’re watching your figure, try broth-based soups, and get them in smaller sizes as part of a total meal. Also, remember that soup tends to be full of sodium, even when it’s homemade. If you don’t have health issues surrounding salt, then check out this list of lunch options for blustery days to come.

• Barley and creamy lentil: This vegan soup is our expert’s favorite on this list, and at 210 calories, 700 milligrams of sodium, nine grams of protein, and no saturated fat in a medium, it’s easy to see why. But the real draw is in its seven grams of fiber. Weisenberger says, “With barley you get beta-glucans, which lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose resistance. And beans have resistant starch fiber, which helps with colon health.”

• 12 veggies: With a name like that, this soup is a sure win (the vegetables are tomatoes, potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots, onions, edamame, broccoli, corn, leeks, celery, and mushrooms). Our expert says, “People don’t eat enough vegetables, and this one is really packed with a nice variety, though it’s not as high in fiber as it should be.” A medium offers a snack-worthy 180 calories, four grams of both fiber and protein, and no saturated fat (but it does pack 38 percent of your daily sodium).

• Three lentil vegetable: “This was an easy pick,” Weisenberger says, adding that at although the sodium is high, it’s low for this restaurant (930 milligrams in a cup or 1,390 in a bowl). Saltiness aside, a bowl of this vegetarian option offers 210 calories, a great 13 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and no saturated fat.

• Zesty chicken tortilla: The good thing about this bowl is that it offers satiating amounts of fiber (9 grams) and protein (11 grams). On the flip side, you’re also getting 1,970 milligrams of sodium, almost your full day’s worth. “It has a good amount of fiber for a non-bean-based soup,” Weisenberger explains. “Its low calories and reasonable saturated fat set it apart from the rest of the soups on the menu.”

• Southwestern corn and turkey chili: In a regular size, this 289-calorie chili offers a hearty 16 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 868 milligrams of sodium. Our expert says this soup could make up most of your lunch or be a small meal on its own.

• Pollo e pasta: If you’re looking for a broth to make part of a balanced lunch, this one’s a good choice. “A side soup only has 67 calories, so it’s a perfect way to take the edge off your hunger before the rest of your meal,” Weisenberg says. And it only has 460 milligrams of sodium.

• Low-fat garden vegetable with pesto: Our expert points out that many of Panera’s soup options are unforgivably high in saturated fat. “I got rid of those, and out of the ones left standing, [this soup] was highest in fiber and lowest in saturated fat.” At 150 calories, it has 5 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and 930 milligrams of sodium. The chicken noodle is also a decent choice for similar reasons.

• Low-fat vegetarian black bean: With 240 calories, 9 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein, this bowl could potentially carry you to dinner (or at least a pre-dinner snack). “This is a pretty hearty soup, which I know from experience,” Weisenberger says. “It has black beans, which are a good source of that resistant starch fiber.” Just watch out for the 1,270 milligrams of sodium.

• Moroccan chicken: “This soup has enough protein to make a small meal or good part of a meal, the sodium is pretty moderate for a soup this size, and the saturated fat is low,” Weisenberger explains. “But it also sounds delicious to me. There’s a delightful number of herbs and spices, all of which have health benefits.” And it’s got great ingredients such as chickpeas, dried apricots, jalapeños, and more, all at only 640 milligrams of sodium.

• Smokey root veg & bean: This 192-calorie option is a formidable combo of both vegetables and beans, both things Americans typically don’t eat enough. Plus it’s filling, with 11 grams of fiber and 8.5 grams of protein. If you’re looking to curb your appetite without going to extremes, our expert recommends the 32-calorie miso soup.

Jill Weisenberger is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week. You can follow her on Twitter @nutritionjill.