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There’s nothing better than pot of hot, creamy soup, especially after a chilly fall or winter ride.

Nothing beats sneaking in a wintertime ride and coming back home to something warm. What's on the menu? SOUP. Hearty, wholesome, nourishing, warm soup.

It's that time of year when you finish a ride with friends and quickly change out of that damp kit into some warm fleece, jeans, a touque, and a sweater (clearly I'm Canadian, but this can also apply to you softer California types who think 60 degrees is freezing!).

Soup can make a quality meal paired with a nice whole grain baguette and/or lean protein on the side or it can even serve as a starter to a meal or a healthy snack. The thing I love about soup is that just about anyone can feel quite accomplished in the kitchen after making a soup. It doesn't take a seasoned pro to put amazing soup on the table. Trust me.

Generally, if you have a few basics on hand such as broth, garlic, onion and ginger as well as a few basic spices such as salt, pepper, curry, chili powder, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and maybe a few limes and lemons, you can pull off some good flavors.

Four Power-Packed Soups

Speed your recovery after a cold winter ride with healthy—and delicious—soups

Lentil soup
Mitch Mandel

After a chilly ride, few meals are more satisfying than soup. Warm and comforting, "soup provides a big bang for your buck," says sports nutritionist Lisa Dorfman, R.D. "You can get lots of protein, fiber, and carbs for not a lot of calories." Whether you want a hearty post-ride meal or just a satisfying lunch, these soups not only will make you stronger but are easy to make—and savor. Each recipe yields two to three servings and tastes even better as leftovers.

Lentil and Black Bean
This vegan stew is thick and superfilling thanks to the beans and lentils. Both are good sources of protein and fiber-rich carbs. "The body absorbs these nutrients slowly, keeping energy and hunger levels on an even keel," says sports nutritionist Monique Ryan, R.D. One cup of lentils contains almost all of your daily need for folate, a B vitamin that's key for the formation of energy-supplying red blood cells. Chili powder, cumin, and paprika punch up the flavor while providing a dose of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

To make: Chop half a large onion and saute in a pot on medium heat until soft. Add 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika; saute 1 minute. Add 2 cups vegetable broth and 1 tablespoon tomato paste; bring to a boil. Add 1/2 cup red lentils; cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Partially mash 1 cup drained, rinsed canned black beans; add to soup with 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice of one lime, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook five minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

Tomato Chickpea Pesto
According to a study published in 2010 in the journal Appetite, participants who added half a cup of chickpeas to their daily diet ate less junk food and felt fuller compared with days they didn't eat chickpeas. Researchers credit the bean's fiber (11 grams per cup) for the healthy results. Cooked tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can protect skin from UV rays. Pesto adds a rich flavor, while basil contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants, says Dorfman. She also notes it's packed with magnesium, a mineral that regulates blood sugar.

To make: In a pot, saute 1/2 a diced medium onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat till soft. Add 1 minced garlic clove; cook 30 seconds. Add one 28-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. If you like a smooth soup, puree mixture in a blender. Transfer back to pot. Add one 15-ounce can drained, rinsed chickpeas. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Top each serving with a dollop of jarred basil pesto.

Curried Coconut Squash
Butternut squash has just 82 calories per cup and provides half of your daily vitamin C needs. It's a great source of potassium and magnesium, "two electrolytes most athletes are deficient in," says Dorfman. Lite coconut milk adds creamy texture and rich flavor with 60 percent fewer calories than full-fat. Curry contains turmeric, a strong anti-inflammatory that research indicates can keep joints healthy and protect against arthritis.

To make: In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups steamed butternut squash (buy a bag of frozen, precubed squash you can steam in the microwave), 1/2 cup light coconut milk, 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, 1 teaspoon curry powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth, add more salt to taste, and reheat if needed. Top each bowl with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Spicy Sausage Mushroom
Wild rice, whole-grain bread, and sausage provide the carb-and-protein combo cyclists need after a long ride, says Ryan. Using less meat and lots of mushrooms reduces fat and calories while lending a hearty texture. (A study by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that people who substituted mushrooms for beef consumed 400 fewer calories and felt just as satisfied as when they ate meals with meat.) Kale is packed with vitamin K, which strengthens bones and reduces fracture risk, and antioxidants that neutralize exercise-induced free radicals.

To make: In a pot, saute 4 ounces cooked, sliced spicy chicken sausage in 1 tablespoon oil until brown. Remove and set aside. In the same pot, cook 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms till soft; pour in 1/4 cup water, scraping up sausage bits. Add 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, teaspoon red-pepper flakes, 4 cups chopped kale, and 1/4 cup white wine. Cook till kale is wilted, about 4 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt; simmer 15 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice; simmer 5 more minutes. Serve with whole-grain bread.

Eat better: Try adding a dash of red pepper to soups. Research shows that the spice can help reduce cravings for fatty, salty, and sweet foods.

In the Can
Store-bought soups with a healthy, tasty kick

Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Minestrone Soup
It contains a mere 50 milligrams of sodium per cup—but still brims with bright vegetable flavor.

Amy's Organic Light in Sodium Split Pea
This soup is packed with wholesome, organic ingredients. Plus, one cup supplies six grams of fiber and seven grams of protein.

Campbell's Select Harvest Chicken with Whole Grain Pasta
Whole-grain noodles make this healthier than traditional chicken noodle. Add a can of beans for extra fiber.

This article Four Power-Packed Soups originally appeared on runnersworld.com.



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