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Heart-Healthy Soups: Comfort Food for Winter Moms-To_be

February is National Heart Month and we are focusing on ways moms can focus on their heart healthy before, during, and after baby comes.

I've never been the type to scare expectant moms with the potential dangers of pregnancy, labor and delivery, but it does bear repeating that heart disease remains the number one cause of death in women, and that pregnancy-induced conditions such as diabetes and preeclampsia can increase the risk of heart disease down the line. Good habits developed during pregnancy can help set a woman up for good habits the rest of her life and reduce the risks for heart disease.

Homemade is really the way to go when it comes to soup. Not only is it a great way to get extra vegetables into your diet, but you can avoid the preservatives and sodium found in canned or frozen soups. The best thing about soup, too, is that it can be modified to whatever your taste is that day.

  • Put in things you wouldn't normally eat. Finely chopped spinach and zucchini are excellent sources of iron and minerals. Garbanzo beans, barley, and wild rice are other tasty fillers to add to soup.
  • Chicken and rice or noodle is a good breakfast if you have a sensitive stomach in the morning. So is miso soup.
  • Modify favorite family recipes by substituting brown or wild rice for white, low-sodium broth for full sodium, making your own stock, and using orzo instead of egg noodles.
  • Craving something spicy? Pour salsa into tomato-based recipe.
  • Freeze leftovers so you always have a healthy meal alternative.
  • Avoid cream-based soups; these are usually loaded with fat, sodium, and artery-clogging cholesterol.

Here's my favorite comfort soup recipe: Pesto Chicken with Spinach

Ingredients

* 2 tsp plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into quarters
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
* 1 large clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 cup shredded carrot
* 6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
* 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
* 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves or 2 tablespoons dried
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* Freshly ground pepper to taste
Top with multigrain croutons

Preparation

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add spinach and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
3. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan and basil in a food processor until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water and scraping down the sides as necessary. *You can substitute a premade, low-sodium pesto as well.
4. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.
 

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