the pros and cons, according to a dietitian

It may be a fad diet but it’s been around for years. Is it worth trying the soup diet for weight loss?

Goodbye raw food diet – it’s cold and wintry, so the soup diet is back in vogue.

If you’re wondering what it takes, and whether or not you should join the soup diet club, here’s your dietitian-approved verdict.

What is the soup diet? And what are the pros and cons?

The soup diet is pretty self-explanatory: eat soup, lose weight. There are lots of variations, so it’s hard to nail down a definitive yay or nay. Nonetheless, soup diets tend to be packed with plants, so that’s a great place to start.

They can also be a good source of hydration and, for the most part, are usually low kilojoule, which makes losing weight a little easier.

If your soups are hearty and balanced, I’m all for eating lots of them. If they’re only made of vegetables, however, there is some room for improvement. Obviously, veggies are part and parcel of any healthy meal – but a balanced bowl should also contain quality carbs, lean protein and a touch of healthy fats.

For a soup to meet the quality carb criteria, they should contain legumes (like beans, chickpeas or lentils) and/or wholegrains like quinoa, barley or rice. Sweet potato can provide quality carbohydrates, too. Legumes also tick off the protein check point, as do options like chicken, beef, tofu or egg.

Cook it all up in a little extra virgin olive oil, add lots of veggies and hey presto, you’ve got a balanced soup on your hands. The trouble is, however, soups rarely contain all of these important elements.

On the not so positive side of soups is that while you’d think they’re usually a healthy choice, some varieties can be on par with a takeaway meal. That’s because they can be packed with kilojoules, sodium and saturated fat, thanks to ingredients like cream, coconut cream, butter and store-bought stock.

At the other end of the scale, soup diets can be incredibly restrictive. If you’re eating veggie-only soups, you’re lacking the basics of a balanced eating pattern and probably curbing your kilojoule intake far too drastically.

You could lose too much weight too quickly (yes, that is a thing!) and in turn, you’ll lose lean muscle mass. That can actually slow down your metabolism, because it takes more energy to maintain muscle than it does fat mass.

The verdict on the soup diet

Like all diets, most soup diets promise a quick fix – and that’s not up my alley. Of course, anything based on veggies is a healthy starting point, but there’s far more to healthy weight loss than just eating veggies.

So, if you’re a fan of soups, of course you can include them in your weight loss regime – but I wouldn’t bank on soup only to help shift the scales or build a life-long healthy eating mindset.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.