A healthy clam chowder? A few smart swaps make it possible.
One of the most popular regional soups in the United States is New England clam chowder. It has all the factors that make a great comfort food: a creamy mouthfeel, a rich broth, slurpability, and a good dose of salt.
Unfortunately, those factors don’t exactly do favors for your health. The typical clam chowder is made with copious amounts of heavy cream, whole milk, and bacon, all of which are high in saturated fat. Having too much of this type of dietary fat can increase the risk of high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol over time, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Cholesterol can harden in the arteries and increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, or heart attack.
Eating a heart-healthy diet is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes, since diabetes is a major risk factor of heart disease. In fact, American adults with diabetes are up to four times more likely to die from a cardiovascular disease than adults without diabetes, according to AHA. Thankfully, good management of blood sugar can prevent complications of diabetes, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
How to Healthify Clam Chowder
Although the classic New England clam chowder might be high in saturated fat and sodium (two unfriendly nutrients for the heart), you can totally make a lightened-up clam chowder at home that *tastes* indulgent (but totally isn’t). In this episode of “Diabetes Bites,” find out what clever swaps can healthify clam chowder without compromising on flavor and creaminess, according to Fiorella DiCarlo, RD, CDN, registered dietitian in New York City.
This lighter take on clam chowder makes a few smart moves:
- Swap half the potatoes with cauliflower. Although potatoes have some health benefits, cauliflower helps lower some of the calories and starch content of the soup.
- Replace whole milk and cream with low-fat dairy options. This helps cut back on all the saturated fat found in traditional New England clam chowder. For a non-dairy option, try soy milk or oat milk.
- Rethink the bacon. In this recipe, DiCarlo opts for turkey bacon, but you can also swap in a meatless bacon, such as shiitake bacon or coconut bacon.
- Hold the salt. Soup is one of the biggest sodium bombs in the American diet, and making your soup at home with fresh ingredients allows you to make flavorful soups that are low in sodium. (Here are tips for buying healthier soup in the store.)
This take on chowder is proof that healthy eating doesn’t have to feel like a deprivational diet. By using healthier ingredients for some of your favorite foods, you’re empowering yourself to improve your overall diet and manage your health.
- 2 10 - ounce can whole baby clams, undrained
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 slices turkey bacon, halved
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups small cauliflower florets (about 1-inch pieces)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups fat-free milk
- 1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup coarsely shredded carrots
InstructionsDrain clams, reserving liquid. Chop half of the clams; set chopped and whole clams aside. Add enough water to the reserved clam liquid to measure 1 1/2 cups; set clam liquid aside. Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray; heat saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, onion, and celery to saucepan. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until onion is tender and bacon is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan; drain on paper towels. Chop bacon and set aside. Stir potatoes, cauliflower, thyme, pepper, and reserved clam liquid into onion mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Transfer half of the potato mixture (about 2 cups) to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return to the remaining potato mixture in saucepan. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, half-and-half, and flour until smooth. Add all at once to potato mixture. Cook and stir just until boiling. Stir in chopped and whole clams and carrots. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cook for 1 minute more. Sprinkle each serving with chopped bacon.
Nutrition Information Based on a Single Serving
*Percent Daily Value are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
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[SOUND] Today we are making
New England clam chowder and
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it is the perfect comfort
food in a chilly day.
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We're going to start with our star,
which is the clam.
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Now, the best thing for
you to do is to get fresh clams, right?
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Where I'm from a Naples,
the fish market are famous, so
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very early on I learned
how to pick a good clam.
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So the trick is, you wanna go into
the market and you wanna poke at the clam.
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If the clam snaps back at you,
it's alive and it's fresh and
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that's the one you wanna pick.
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Now, if you don't have fresh clams,
you can get canned clams.
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And what you wanna do is chop
up half of the portion of it and
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keep the other half whole.
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Personally, I love a more
chunky clam in my clam chowder.
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Now what you're also doing, is you're
taking part of the clam liquid from
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the can and reserving it into a bowl,
and also adding some water to it.
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So in total,
it comes out to about a cup and a half.
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Let's start with the turkey bacon.
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We're gonna put our pan on
about a medium heat here, and
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we have the turkey bacon because it is
much lower fat than the regular bacon.
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But I swear it is delicious,
it is salty, and
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it's gonna give you that lovely smoky feel
that we're looking for in a clam chowder.
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So, we're gonna go ahead and
put that in first, so
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it has some time to render a bit and
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That's gonna take about
five to eight minutes.
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So, now our turkey bacon is nice and
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the kitchen smells really great.
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And we're gonna move our bacon over to
our plate that has a paper towel on it.
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And this is for soaking up any excess
fat that is in this turkey bacon.
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Next, we're gonna put in our onions and
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And that is gonna be the base
of the clam chowder.
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Our bacon is gonna be left there for
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Now, the onions and
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the celery right now are picking up the
flavors that the turkey bacon left behind.
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Now we're gonna move on to our
next set of ingredients and
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here's where the magic is gonna happen.
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Okay, this is how your recipe's
gonna be much healthier.
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What we're doing is we're
going to add our potatoes in.
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They have the skin left on,
which is filled with fiber.
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We're just gonna add that in.
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We're also gonna add in the cauliflower.
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This is filled with fiber as well,
and vitamin c.
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So we're gonna go put that in there.
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The cauliflower is great because it's
going to give it that starchy feel that
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you're going to have from the potato.
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So you're not gonna miss out on it.
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And we're going to put in the reserved
clam juice from the can in here also.
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We're going to allow this entire
mixture to come to a boil,
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then we're going to have it simmer for
about eight to ten minutes.
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We're also going to add
a little bit of dried thyme,
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which is filled with antioxidants and
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And pepper to give it
a little bit more of a zip.
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All right, now that our cauliflower and
our potato is cooked,
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you can just stick a fork in there just
to make sure that they're nice and soft.
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We're going to transfer half of this
mixture into our food processor.
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Now the reason why we're doing this is
because once this is processed together,
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it's going to give the actual chowder
a really starchy creamy feel.
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That's what we're looking for.
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Take some of the liquid along with it too,
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make sure that you eyeball
that as best you can.
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There we are.
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[SOUND] All right, a little bit more.
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[SOUND] All right, feels good to me.
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So now we're done with that.
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That looks great.
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So you can see that it
is a beautiful paste.
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And this is going to give it that really,
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creamy comfort food feel that we're
looking for from a clam chowder.
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I promised you results with this and
you're going to love it.
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We're gonna put this
right back on our heat.
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We've combined here two and
a half cups of skim milk and
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about a half a cup of half-and-half.
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You got a hit of calcium and
vitamin d in there as well.
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And then we're gonna get our famous and
gorgeously plump and delicious clams, and
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we're gonna go ahead and
put those in here too.
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And remember, this is gonna be really,
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really fast cooking now because the clams
really don't need that much cooking.
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And finally we're gonna have some
shredded carrots that we're putting in.
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And interestingly enough,
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the beta keratin in carrots actually
get activated when they're cooked.
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So they're actually a vegetable that is
enhanced with vitamins when it's cooked,
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so that's great to know too.
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And we're gonna use our little whisk here.
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And we're gonna just kind of whisk it
together to make sure that it is nice and
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mixed up and chunky for
you, and flavorful.
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The smell is great, and we're just gonna
kinda bring it to a tiny bit of a boil for
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about one more minute.
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So now we can turn down our heat here,
and our clam chowder is done.
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And it is beautiful, and it smells
great and it is chunky and creamy,
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just the way we like it.
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And then, don't forget our bacon.
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We're going to garnish this to continue
enhancing the smoky flavor that is
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already in the chowder by these little
crunchy little bits on top, okay?
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There we are.
Put as much as you want,
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you make the recipe, go for it.
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We have our creamy, delicious, and
chunky New England clam chowder.
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Thank you so much for joining us for
another episode of Diabetes Bites.
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We'll see you next time.
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Cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 28, 2019 at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/why-diabetes-matters/cardiovascular-disease--diabetes.)