Last fall the Med approach series reached the pyramid’s foundation: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans/lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices - Base every meal on these foods. (  This month features vegetables looking into a bowl of soup.

Nine out of 10 Americans fall short on meeting vegetables’ guidance of 2-3 cups daily. Why a worry? Vegetables - an integral part of the Mediterranean way of eating - are nutritional powerhouses of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that promote health and prevent chronic diseases. ( For what counts as a cup of vegetables, go to  

Where are vegetables most often found?  Forty-five percent of consumed vegetables are a separate meal item. Forty percent come in mixed dishes. Soups, an easy strategy for increasing vegetable intake, are a warm welcomed meal on cold days.

Soup as a meal-in-a-bowl is ideally a combination of generous vegetables (including legumes), a protein (meat, fish, poultry, legumes) and a carb (rice, pasta, quinoa) in a liquid (broth, water); plus, seasonings.

Hearty, chunky soups are actually possible without a recipe. Soups are a perfect strategy to avoid food waste by using leftovers. 

Ready-made canned and packaged soups can be “enriched or upgraded” with leftover vegetables, frozen vegetable mixes, a carb and a protein to make them meal worthy. An idea for transforming canned tomato soup into a meal is available at:  

My no-recipe method for a quick-scratch chicken soup: 

  1. simmer 2 bone-in chicken thighs, onion, celery, and black pepper in water to generously cover
  2. shred cooked chicken and return to chicken’s broth
  3. throw in plenty of fresh, canned, frozen, or leftover vegetables such as: carrot, broccoli florets or diced stalk, green beans, frozen roasted corn, riced cauliflower, green peas, frozen shelled edamame,
  4. add 1 can petite diced tomatoes or fire-roasted diced tomatoes with mild green chilies (with liquid)
  5. add ½ to 1 cup uncooked carb: orzo, small pasta pieces, rice
  6. add sodium-reduced packaged chicken or vegetable broth for more liquid, if desired
  7. season to taste: salt, all-purpose seasoning, Frontier Co-op’s chipotle powder (my favorite for mild smoky flavor)

Remember to choose Med approach ingredients when preparing homemade soups and purchasing ready-made chunky soups: vegetables, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, olive oil, legumes, chicken, fish, herbs.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.