This time of year, when temperatures are freezing and daylight hours are short, we all crave comfort food.

Luckily for us, a comforting and warm dinner of soup and cornbread can be a good nutritional plan – and it might help us fit into those shorts when summer arrives.

When you’re picking a soup recipe, look for the ones that have lots of vegetables. Broth-based soups not only let you include a rainbow of produce, but the broth itself, made from bones, can pack plenty of vitamins and collagen. Collagen is great for healthier skin, hair and joints.

Creamy soups or soups thickened with roux – a mix of fat and starch – are delicious, but they are also high in fat. Luckily, a soup made with beans is easy to thicken without adding fat. Just use a blender or an immersion blender to puree some of soup and stir it back in. You’ll get that satisfying thickness without extra fat.

While bread on the side can turn soup into a filling meal, you can do yourself a healthy favor by using cornbread or corn muffins instead. A 100-gram serving of cornbread usually clocks in 96 calories instead of 238 calories for the same serving of white bread.

Cornbread mixes can be loaded with sugar and added ingredients, but stone-ground or water-ground cornmeal is a whole grain, because it still has some of the hull and germ from the corn. Make sure you refrigerate it or freeze it, because it can quickly take on a rancid taste.

When you’re shopping for cornmeal, look for yellow cornmeal. It’s more likely to be stone-ground, and it has more beta carotene, which turns into vitamin A when digested.

Struggling to lose weight? Want help with healthier eating? Or maybe you need a hand with Type 2 diabetes? Novant Health doctors and other specialized clinicians are ready to help.

  • CoreLife: CoreLife Novant Health offers you a way to get to a healthy weight and address medical conditions that keep you from living the life you want.
  • Bariatrics and weight-loss surgery: Click here to reach team members who will contact you to discuss your needs or schedule an appointment.
  • Registered dietitians help us make smart choices. Find one today.
  • Diabetes: Whether you are trying to prevent diabetes, learning how to live with it, Novant Health is here to help.
  • Primary care providers: Not sure where to start? Book an appointment with your doctor to begin the journey.
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Corn muffins

From Eating Well magazine.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 12 (2 1/2 inch) muffin cups with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk lightly.

Combine eggs, milk and oil in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. (Some lumps will remain.)

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. A toothpick inserted in the center of each should come out clean.

Remove from muffin cups and serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins. Per muffin: 141 calories; 19.3g carbohydrates (0.8g dietary fiber, 5.3g sugar); 3.4g protein; 5.7g fat (0.7g saturated fat); 31.4mg cholesterol; 244mg sodium.


Creamy white bean soup

Adapted from Eating Well. If you have the rind from a wedge of Parmesan, toss it into the soup when you add the beans to add more flavor.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable broth or chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (optional; garnish)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is starting to soften, about five minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatic, about two minutes.

Stir in the beans, broth, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. (If you added a Parmesan rind, remove it and discard it.)

Pour 2 cups of soup into a blender. Put the lid on the blender and remove the center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean dish towel over the top and process until smooth, about 1 minutes. Pour back into the remaining soup. (Or use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup in the pot.)

Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan if desired.

Yield: 4 (1-cup) servings. Per serving: 185 calories; 28g carbohydrates (9g dietary fiber, 3g sugar); 7g protein; 6g fat (1g saturated fat); 1mg cholesterol; 300mg sodium.