Like the television jingle says, soup is good food. It’s great for weight control because the high water content helps to fill you up with fewer calories. Research shows that starting a meal with soup is likely to help you eat less overall. And of course, all by itself, soup makes a very filling lunch or dinner.

You can make a big pot of soup over the weekend and have it ready in the fridge for fast healthful meals later in the week. It’s portable, too—great to carry to work in a thermos.

It’s wonderful to make old-fashioned soup from scratch, but you can also make yummy and healthful soups in a jiffy using some great vegan convenience products. I am especially smitten with soup-in-a-box, those wonderful soups packaged in aseptic cartons by Imagine Foods and Trader Joe’s, among others. And when I just can’t get my act together to soak and cook beans, canned beans are a great soup ingredient. For veggie broth, I use a powdered broth that I get at the food coop. You can also find vegetable bouillon cubes in the grocery store.

If I have an onion in the house and a few cans of beans and tomatoes, I know I’ll be able to pull together some type of soup. Here are three of my favorite super-fast recipes.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large sweet onion (like Mayan or Walla Walla), coarsely chopped
1 carton Imagine brand Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beans (baby lima, chickpeas, navy, Great Northern or any bean you like)
1 cup frozen or canned corn
Optional: 1 Tofurky sausage, sliced (I like their Beer Brats or Kielbasa for this recipe, rather than the Italian sausages).

Heat the olive oil, and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it is tender and just starting to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients. (You don’t need to drain the canned beans, unless you are using black beans. If using black beans, drain and rinse them or they’ll give the soup an unappetizing color.) Simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve this with toasted sunflower seeds. It makes about 10 one-cup servings.

Black Bean and Rice Soup

This is a great soup to make if you have just a little bit of leftover rice, brown or white.

½ large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ to 1 cup cooked rice
2 cans black beans, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup corn, frozen or canned
2 cups veggie broth or bouillon

Heat the oil and sauté the onion. When the onion is just starting to get soft, add the garlic and keep sautéing until all is tender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer until hot. Serve with salsa, chopped cilantro, guacamole and/or Tofutti brand Sour Supreme. Some crumbled tortilla chips on top are nice, too! Makes about 9 1-cup servings.

Pasta and Bean Soup

This is a fast version of pasta e fagioli, which is the classic Italian soup—more so, even, than minestrone. It’s a little heavy on oil, but this is healthful Mediterranean cooking.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons)
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 can diced tomatoes
7 cups veggie broth
6 ounces pasta (little pieces, like elbow macaroni or tiny shells)
2 cans cannellini or Great Northern beans (or any white bean will do in a pinch)

Heat oil and sauté garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is almost tender, about 7 minutes. Add the beans and cook briefly until everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with good Italian bread and a salad. Makes about 12 one-cup servings.