Although brothy soups are generally considered healthier than creamy ones, French onion soup tends to be more indulgent compared to broth-based soups like vegetable or lentil soup. That bread-and-melted-cheese crust atop the soup can definitely pile on extra saturated fat and refined carbs.
And then there’s the sodium. Even the lightest, veggie-packed soups can have sky-high salt levels. If you’re looking for low-cal soup recipes for a healthier lunch choice, it is important to consider the sodium content that you may be introducing to your diet. High sodium levels—if eaten on the reg—can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. They may also bloat you up like the Goodyear blimp.
To address the high sodium levels, this healthy French onion soup recipe skips the salty stock and uses a from-scratch base flavored with herbs and veggies. The primary ingredient for the stock is onion peels. Although we mostly think of onions as nothing more than an aromatic, they have a surprising amount of nutritional value. Onions contain vitamin C and certain phytonutrients that may be beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
The secret ingredients to make this low-salt, vegetarian broth taste like the beefy original are low-sodium soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). These two ingredients are well known for their umami (meaty) and pleasantly acidic flavors, particularly in Japanese cuisine.
To serve, chef Colombe Jacobsen recommends pre-toasting a whole grain piece of bread (look for 100% whole wheat), then adding a small amount of grated gruyere cheese and thyme. Then scoop the healthy French onion soup directly over top of the bread and cheese. The heat of the soup will melt the cheese without needing to place in the oven. Yummmmm.
For more low-salt, healthy soup recipes, try Colombe’s ajiaco chicken soup or garlic soup. For more tips on slashing sodium from your diet, here are a cardiologist’s 7 tips for following a low-salt diet.