The no-recipe soup this personal trainer swears by

To prevent myself from having to rely on convenience foods and takeout, I keep this foolproof soup in my back pocket.
Asian style noodle soup with glas noodles and zoodles in red curry broth
Love slurping noodles in your soup? Zucchini noodles and chickpea pasta are smart add-ins.Getty Images

Eating a healthy diet is consistently one of the biggest roadblocks to weight loss. As a personal trainer, I hear this over and over again from my clients — even I have weeks where I have no time to grocery shop and meal prep.

To prevent myself from having to rely on convenience foods and takeout, I keep this foolproof soup in my back pocket. It actually doesn’t even require a real recipe, and can be made quickly with whatever you have in your kitchen. It fills you up, packs in produce and feels comforting as the weather gets colder.

I like being able to see and chew my vegetables and other ingredients — it feels like you’re eating instead of slurping — and this soup is hearty and chunky! (Bonus: that means you don’t need a fancy blender.) Plus, I love this soup even more as leftovers once it’s been sitting in the fridge; the flavors have a longer time to soak into the vegetables and the protein.

Here is my basic chicken vegetable soup recipe, but I’ve also included instructions on how to whip up a soup using any ingredients you have on hand.

  • 1 bag spinach
  • 1 bag cut up broccoli
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 container zucchini zoodles
  • 1 container low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked
  • Season with pink Himalayan salt, pepper and red pepper to taste

I throw everything into the soup pot at once and cook it over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. I keep it on the stove for the whole day to savor the aroma in my small apartment. This soup has been a lifesaver for me because it tastes and feels like a home-cooked meal, and every time I make it I change up the vegetables, the immune booster or the flavoring so it ever gets old. It’s like a fun experiment, but one where I already know what the result will be: comforting and delicious!

Here's how to experiment with whatever ingredients you have on hand:

Base

A basic chicken broth or vegetable broth will do. Sometimes if I am running low on supplies, I’ll only use one container of broth and then add in two containers of water.

Protein

Dealer’s choice on this! I love making traditional chicken and vegetable soup. I buy pre-cooked chicken breasts or diced chicken, but I always have frozen chicken strips (already cooked) in the freezer in case I’m desperate. Instead of chicken, you can use any meat like beef, pork or turkey. It can be ground beef, turkey links, cubes of pork — any way you want the meat to be cut!

Not a fan of meat in soups? Try adding in a can of beans. Lentils are highest in protein, so those would be my first pick. Kidney beans or chickpeas also work great. Do you like noodles in your soup? Load up on chickpea pasta or lentil pasta to get in your protein. Use these noodles in any shape or size to pack in more protein.

Vegetables

The sky is the limit with vegetables. In the winter I like heartier soups so I like to add in fingerling potatoes or sweet potatoes. I always add in at least one bag of spinach because spinach helps reduce inflammation and also helps de-bloat. Next, I add a head of chopped broccoli. I love broccoli in soups! Another veggie I usually add is carrots. Sometimes I just throw in a whole bag of baby carrots; other times I buy a bag of shredded carrots, and other days I’ll peel and cut my own carrots into the soup. You can also add kale, cauliflower, zucchini noodles and any other vegetable that you like eating in soups.

Immunity Booster

Some foods may help boost your immune system — which may help you stay healthy during cold and flu season — so I try to add one to the mix. I usually add in a few cloves of finely chopped garlic into my soups. You could also grate the garlic or try garlic powder. Other immunity boosters you can add are ginger and turmeric. I would stick one immune booster at a time, unless you’re well-versed in flavors, since these tend to be stronger flavors that may not all pair well together.

Flavor

This is where I like to add in something to give it a little kick. I traditionally use pink Himalayan salt and black ground pepper. But I also like to add spice. Sometimes I’ll add in red pepper flakes if I’m feeling congested and need to open up my sinuses. Other times I’ll add in basil leaves or basil flakes if I’m in the mood for a more comforting soup flavor. If you like onions, chop up a fresh onion or buy a pre-packed container of chopped onion — or use onion powder in a pinch. If you have something fresh like rosemary or thyme, feel free to add that in. I always pick one flavor and stick to it!