The day after her 14th birthday, my daughter E leaned against the door to my office and said, “Let’s go on a diet together.”
I was stunned into babbling: “You do not need to go on a diet. You’re a size 0. If you get any smaller, you’ll cease to exist.”
“I know. I don’t want to lose any weight. But it would be fun to do it together.”
I knew where this was coming from. Earlier that day she’d had lunch with a friend and her friend’s “awesome mom” who were doing a low-carb diet together. She’d watched as her vegetarian friend put all the cheese and vegetables of her sandwich onto one piece of bread and ate it open-faced. She’d told me about the lunch in detail, and I could tell that there was something about the relationship between the mother and daughter that appealed to her, something that she wanted to share with me. And though the idea of her starting down this whole diet path at her age scared me to death, I said, “How about a cabbage soup diet?” I never dreamed she’d say yes, but she did.
Notice I said “a” cabbage soup diet and not “the” cabbage soup diet, whatever that is. Our plan was simply to eat cabbage soup once a day for a week and not to restrict ourselves in any way. I figured it would be a way to get more vegetables into her “sandwich for lunch” diet. It had been years since she’d allowed me to pack soup in her lunchbox, but now she was asking me to, even offering to eat it for breakfast. More importantly, it would give me a chance to show her that a person’s “diet” isn’t about weight loss but about healthy eating. If I’d seen any sign that she was actually wanting to lose weight, any sign of body image issues, I would have backed off of the idea and sat her down for a long talk. But she just wanted to get into the kitchen to make our soup together.
I decided right away that our vegan cabbage soup would contain beans for protein, tomatoes for lycopene, and a little extra fat, in the form of pine nuts. E sauteed the onions and other vegetables while I did all the chopping, and we decided together that some of the basil from our garden would be the best seasoning for our “pesto soup,” as E called it.
Like everything else E has had a hand in making, she loved this soup. She ate two bowls of it for lunch on Sunday, the first day of our “diet,” and took it to school for lunch on Monday, along with some whole-grain crackers, a granola bar, and an apple–a nourishing meal for a teenager.
I’m still not sure I did the right thing in allowing a 14-year old to go on a diet, even one without restrictions. But I figure in our body-conscious society, more and more of her friends are going to be talking about dieting, and I might as well show her from the start that it’s all about adding healthy fruits and vegetables, not taking dangerous pills or drinking meals out of cans.
Update: We had this soup for lunch on Sunday and Monday, and for Tuesday I made a potato-cabbage soup that was, in E’s words, an epic fail. We both ate it anyway, but there was no way we were choking it down again on Wednesday, so we went soupless. I’m making another pot of this cabbage soup today, since it was such a success, and we’ll have some for a snack this afternoon.
Simple Cabbage and Chickpea Soup with Fresh Basil
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 carrots , sliced
- 4 cloves garlic cloves , minced or pressed
- 6 cups hot water (plus bouillon cubes, below) or vegetable broth (and no bouillon cubes)
- 3 cubes no-salt added bouillon cubes (or enough to flavor 6 cups of water)*
- 1/2 head cabbage , chopped
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 16-ounce can chickpeas , rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- generous grating black pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh basil , chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts , lightly toasted (optional)
- Heat a large, non-stick pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the basil and pine nuts. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
- Stir in fresh basil and serve in individual soup bowls, topped with 1 teaspoon of pine nuts, if desired.
Nutritional info is approximate.
LTApril 21, 2011 at 8:34 am
I love how you handled that situation: You could have freaked out and lectured your daughter on how beautiful she is, but instead you looked for her motivation and chose a path that would satisfy the surface request (a diet) and the motivation (an opportunity to bond over something). You’re right, we are entirely image conscious and, as much as we’d like to shelter children from this, we can’t. The best we can do is to educate them and help them make healthy choices.
I hope that you’ll have an opportunity to talk about how food makes us feel and how eating a healthy, balanced diet makes us feel all around good.
Also, the soup looks delicious and I’m debating whether to try it with the purple cabbage I have in my fridge.
CarliApril 21, 2011 at 8:36 am
This sounds delicious! I will definitely be trying it soon.
I was a bit frightened when I started reading this blog post, but so relieved by how the story turned out! I believe you could not have responded to your daughter’s wish to “diet” together in a better way– it made me just want to hug you! 🙂
GingerApril 21, 2011 at 8:37 am
This is wonderful that you’ve found a way to bond with your daughter. The teen years can be wrenching. It’s so funny that you said you allowed her to go on a diet. One thing that you might not understand yet is that you cannot give her permission for things like that anymore. She will do as she pleases, that is what the whole anorexia/bulimia problem is about. Young people must begin to control their own lives. Food is often the only way they can gain control. So your decision to do this ‘diet’ together and support her was a very wise choice. Yeah Mom!
Jessica L CanealApril 21, 2011 at 8:45 am
In my opinion you are the “awesome mom”. I applaud you for paying attention to your child’s actual needs, for letting her feel heard, giving her the space to grow and make decisions, and for providing her with what she really needed at the time (time with her mom). There are so few parents these days who are willing to put in the time it takes (time is a precious commodity in our culture) to really be there for their kids! You are an amazing mom!
L.April 21, 2011 at 9:23 am
I’ve saved to my recipe box! This looks really good. I love your blog and recipes; I enjoyed a Cinnamon Swirl Muffin this morning for breakfast.
My husband, daughter, and I have been vegans for about six months now and have been very inspired and have learned a lot from your blog. I love the recipes that I try.
Two years ago, I decided to change my lifestyle and get healthy. I have lost 135 pounds and feel the best that I’ve ever felt. My family and I decided to go vegan after animal products started not to be so appealing to us; not to mention cruelty issue. Now I wish that I could get my extended family (parents and siblings) to understand our eating lifestyle. They act like we have eating disorders or something! It’s just the opposite….I love the food that I make now!
Thanks for the inspiration and great recipes.
Megan ViolettaApril 21, 2011 at 9:31 am
Hi! I think I’m going to try this soup recipe- I’ve become a soup for lunch girl as part of my “want to look kick ass in my wedding dress diet” ; )
Curious- how long would you estimate the soup is good for? I’ve been puttin off making my own soup because my fiance doesn’t like it. I’ve been packing my self a can of Amy’s organic soup everyday. I’ve been wanting to try making homemade soup not only because the fresher ingredients will be better health wise but also I’m betting it’s more cost effective. I’ve just been fearfull that I will end of pouring half of it down the drain because I can’t eat it fast enough.
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 10:01 am
I can see this keeping for about two weeks. You can also freeze it in individual servings so that you can have it at a later date. Have a great wedding!
ChristineApril 21, 2011 at 9:36 am
E is so pretty, Susan. You’re a great mom.
Sara @ Veggies For RealApril 21, 2011 at 9:54 am
I also think you handled the situation fantastically. I remember being 14 , and the pressure associated with being “thin” and “pretty” quite clearly. I think shifting the focus to being healthy instead is a great way to show your daughter, or any teenager, what’s really important in life. If I were your daughter, I would be more willing to approach you with future concerns/requests in the future because of your reasonable response to my request do “diet”.
As for the soup, it looks delicious!! It’s almost too hot in NC these days to consider eating soup, which kind of upsets me since I love it so much.
dawnMay 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Sara, why not eat the soup cold or at room temp?
Perhaps with some crusty bread, toasted or not.
Just a suggestion….. : )
CLEVeganApril 21, 2011 at 10:26 am
I chuckled over your comment “if you get any smaller, you will cease to exist.” My sister & her husband tried vegetarianism a number of years ago, and they both lost weight but their size zero daughter gained (healthy) weight! My weight stays even when I have soup and crackers and fruit for lunch every day. I like Dr. Esselstyn’s cold Gazpacho soup when it’s hot outside.
Heather @ Healthy Vegan RecipesApril 21, 2011 at 10:28 am
haha… pesto in soup form is a pretty good description! I love the flavor combo in this soup, and funnily enough I came wandering over to your site to see if I could find an answer to a soup question I had the other day 🙂 When you start the onions/garlic/root veggies cooking for a soup, do you do a water saute? Or do you just let them cook on the dry pot? Also, herbs (especially fresh ones, yum!) are fine to steep into the stock, but I find when I try to do oil-free soups with lots of spices, like an Indian-flavored one, the spices just sink to the bottom and don’t really infuse the soup like they do when they get sauteed into oil. Any tips? I was considering mixing the spices into a small bit of tahini to carry the flavor (at least it’s a whole food, even though it’s processed into a butter form), but thought there MUST be a way to do this!!
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm
I usually use a very good non-stick pot that doesn’t require any water or oil. In other pans, I would add water a tablespoon at a time as needed to keep it from sticking.
I’m sure that tahini would be a great addition to any soup and may help carry the seasoning like you want. I don’t really have a problem with my seasonings settling, probably because the Indian dishes I cook are so thick that they couldn’t settle. 🙂
Heather @ Healthy Vegan RecipesApril 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm
Great, thanks for the tips 🙂
Lauren (Diary of a Vegan Girl)April 21, 2011 at 10:46 am
Susan, this looks so yummy! That is so awesome that you have such a great relationship with your daughter! I also like her shirt 🙂
Terre MunkApril 21, 2011 at 11:14 am
Susan: I think you have taken a great approach to “dieting” and E is learning great lessons. Good job taking into account that she and her peers are all weight conscious and she wants to fit in. I think your parenting skills are solid! Yay!
moonwatcherApril 21, 2011 at 11:15 am
I agree wtih all the other posts about how beautifully you seized the moment to share something with your daughter in such a loving and fun way. So what has potential for becoming a serious problem is transformed into a partnership of learning, sharing and enjoying the experience. I remember the teen years of my son, and how important those “invitations” to talk or share an experience were. Bravo for seizing that moment! It’s EVERYTHING where teenagers are concerned, because the moment shifts, and might not come again in that same way. The photos are beautiful, both the soup and E–she is shining with health and happiness–I wish her, and you, as her mother, a wonderful 14th year.
I woke up this morning thinking I might make a version of your other chickpea cabbage “noodle” soup again, since I liked it so much, and it’s still cool here–snowflakes in the air even just a few minutes ago–now I have even more options to experiment with!
Amy GriggsApril 21, 2011 at 11:15 am
That looks yummy. I love soup any time of year. Do you have a suggestion for what I might use instead of pinenuts? Would walnuts be strange?
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Hi Amy! I think walnuts would be great, and even more nutritious than pine nuts.
The Mad ScientistApril 21, 2011 at 11:30 am
Lovely recipe. My kid refuses to cook so I miss the pleasure of cooking together. It sure must be fun.
Soup looks good. To hot here so no soups right now but will make it later.
Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)April 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm
You’re such a cool Momma! I think you handled that situation perfectly. …and the soup looks pretty darn good too 😉
Andrea @ VegvaciousApril 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm
I think you did a wonderful job at handling the “diet” situation. Your daughter is at a crucial age where learning those lessons will make such a positive impact on her body image and self esteem. Way to go!
Your soup looks great. I’m thinking I just might have to try your cabbage soup diet 🙂
wendy (healthy girl's ktichen)April 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Love the photograph, as usual!
Funny, my oldest daughter and I went no-oil vegan together. It was after we heard Rip Esselstyn speak live one year ago. I never thought of it the way you described it in this post, but I’m so glad that I am thinking about it now. It is totally a bond that we share. I love that! Thank you!
gmApril 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Sorry, are you sure that the nutrition numbers are correct? How did you end up with nearly a gram of sodium per serving? Was it primarily from the canned food? Did you use broth + bouillon or water + bouillon?
The ingredients list looks clean, you even used no-salt bouillon…
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm
Oops, you’re right! My nutrition program used the figures for broth when I meant to use water. Stay tuned while I make the changes to the recipe. Thanks for pointing that out.
KApril 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm
Hi Susan – I noticed a lot of your recipes have garlic in them. I’m allergic to garlic so I always use ginger instead – which i love and my girlfriend hates – so we have a little problem. Can you recommend something else in place of garlic? Thanks, k
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm
K, in most of my recipes, I would just omit the garlic and increase the other herbs and spices, in this case oregano and basil. If you can find it, there’s an Indian seasoning called asafetida, which has a garlic-like taste. A little of it goes a long way, so if you find it, just use a pinch or two.
LauraApril 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm
You might still want to talk to her about dieting and body image, anyway. Seriously.
Girl..get a lifeApril 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm
This looks absolutely yummy. I’ll have to try this out. Bookmarking for future reference.
MichellApril 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm
I received a large bunch of dill (and a huge head of cabbage) in my CSA basket. What do you think about substituting dill for the basil??
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm
If you like dill, then go for it! I think it would be great.
OrthohawkOctober 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm
I tried this soup with dill (dried), about a tablespoon and kidney beans instead of chickpeas (I can’t seem to get around garbanzoes in anything other than hummus!) and it was Dee-lishus!
TeraApril 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm
your daughter is beautiful! I’m also 14. I’m also vegan! I’m glad there are more of us around. tell your daughter I say hello, keep strong!
Johanna GGGApril 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm
thanks for your interesting reflections about young girls and diets – sounds like a sensible approach – Cabbage is great in soup – glad this one is a keeper – some ideas I can give (all on my blog) is it goes well with quinoa and corn, with a thai tofu soup and pureed with oats and root veg
CaitlinApril 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm
i love cabbage soup. interestingly, it reminds me of my mom because she used to make it for me every friday when i still lived at home. this soup looks very yummy- maybe i should ask my mom to make it for me… 😉
lisaApril 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm
this looks so awesome. but my son will not eat nightshades in any way, shape or form. do you have suggestions on a substitute for the tomatoes?? thanks much.
SusanVApril 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm
You can make it without the tomatoes and just add extra broth. It’s good either way.
KatrinaApril 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm
I truly enjoyed reading this blog. (My LOL moment was at, “and for Tuesday I made a potato-cabbage soup that was, in E’s words, an epic fail”.) I think you handled the situation wonderfully. I have a 7 year old daughter, who because of today’s society, is already concerned about weight and her appearance. BTW, I also have an (almost) 11 year old son who is starting to have the same concerns. I just don’t remember having to worry about this stuff at their ages! But I am trying to teach them that eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle will do wonders for our bodies. This year, I have made serious changes to our diet, and I have made a point to make sure that they know I go to the gym at least 5 times a week. I am excited about getting involved in outdoor family activities once our weather around here is suitable.
ANYWAY—while we are not Vegan, we do eat 90% “clean” (working on that other 10%) and I incorporate at least 1-2 meatless meals into our diet per week. My children are getting pretty accustomed to that, especially when it’s a soup or stew. The soup in this photo looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it!! Thank you!
MarthaApril 22, 2011 at 7:06 am
I made this soup for dinner last night. It was wonderful! Such a nice flavor. Thank you. I used fire roasted tomatoes and served it with a crusty bread. Can’t wait for lunch to have leftovers!
CassieApril 22, 2011 at 10:31 am
Good for you for teaching your daughter that a diet is about eating GOOD food! I have so many friends who go on group diets and all they eat is frozen “healthy” entrees, sweetened granola bars and maybe some apples. It’s hard to be supportive and encouraging without being preachy. Eating delicious food like this soup – even “epic fails” haha – is so great for your daughter and her positive image.
KellyApril 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm
This soup looks and sounds so delicious! However, it is sad how girls are being pressured to go on diets younger, and younger. I know from first hand experience that these teenage “diets” are not something you want to get stuck in. For me, veganism was a desperate attempt to lose weight. This moved from veganism, to eating only fruits and vegetables, then to only fruits, then liquids only, then celery only, leading to a 400 calorie limit/day and excessive exercise, chewing and spitting, and self-induced vomiting. Luckily, my parents interfered and got me to eat again. After recovering from the physical aspects, the mental damage lasts way longer.
Your daughter is so beautiful! I hope she knows that.
I think most women have that voice inside their head that tells them they aren’t good enough, but we have to challenge that voice or simply ignore its existence.
NewGemApril 22, 2011 at 6:41 pm
It is great to have a healthy food relationship with your children. How wonderful that your daughter feels the same way! Being a positive food role model is one of the most important parts of parenting. Way to go!
amandaApril 23, 2011 at 9:47 am
made this soup yesterday, but sort of “asian-ized” it, using napa cabbage, a squirt of sriracha, and thai basil. it was great!! thanks for the recipe.
ps: you’re a great mom 🙂
DawnApril 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm
Yay! Another yummy soup courtesy of Susan. I didn’t have any chick peas and I had some fresh spinach that was in danger of not being eaten quickly enough. So with a couple modifications I made this recipe. Delicious!
Eating well together as a family is great. Thanks for the inspiration.
Kathleen @ KatsHealthCornerApril 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm
I can totally understand E. I here from all of my friends “I’m too fat!” “I’m flabby!” “I need to go on a diet!” etc! It is so sad what society is doing. They want to mold girls’ (and boys’) body like clay! It is so sad that the “perfect” figure is tall and straight. What happened to the curves? A girl’s body is precious, and should be treated as such.
I love how you recconized that all E wanted was the relationship. I think a mother-daughter relationship is something every girl wants. I know that when my relationship is strong with my mom, I’m more confident and such.
You are so smart to use cabbage soup. I love how many vegetables and beans are in this! It’s not really a diet — it’s just striving to eat more vegetables! 🙂
EliseApril 25, 2011 at 12:18 am
I’d never want to tell you how to parent your own daughter, but I have to admit this post makes me a little concerned. As someone currently suffering and attempting recovery from anorexia, please believe me when I say that it’s a long, hard road to go down and a harder one to come back from. Although it can begin at any age for many people onset comes in the early teens, exactly where your daughter is now. Your daughter, whose name I share ( 🙂 ) is evidently a lovely and already very slim young lady, and I suppose I’m just a bit worried by her sudden interest in dieting. Even if it begins as just a way to bond with you, I would be very wary of any newfound interest she develops in looking up nutritional information (and especially in counting calories) and I really wouldn’t indulge an interest in ‘dieting’. You know your daughter best and I’m sure you’ll steer her right – I’d just hate to see another young life ruined by this dreadful disease.
ZeryxApril 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm
Great soup! I just made and ate some. Oddly, the supermarket was out of fresh basil, so I put some dried in with the oregano. I also used white kidney beans instead of chickpeas and added a little white pepper. Other than that, made it exactly as listed and was very pleased with the homey, comforting taste.
ReynaApril 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm
Loved the article and have to praise you for the way you handled the diet topic. I had ran into a very similar dilemma with my 16 yr old daughter a few months back who was obsessed with being slim and going in ridiculous diets as eating nothing but apples, or nothing but carrots, it got so bad we where constantly arguing due to her stubbornness . We took a family vacation recently to Puerto Vallarta and we stayed at Taheima Wellness Resort & Spa and they offered a magnificent culinary academy in which healthy and moreover proper eating was a must. They showed us how to prepare and eat healthy regardless if it was on the go. Since then my daughter has realized to keep slim and being on a diet one does not have to relinquish eating anything but be moderate and educated.
FrancineApril 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm
This soup was so good! I loved every bite and am looking forward to eating left overs tomorrow! Thank you for doing this website; I don’t think I would be able to be vegan without it!
Recipe ClubsApril 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm
This looks so good! and so healthy! Maybe it’s time I went on a cabbage soup diet. Have you done anything with potatoes in your cabbage soups yet? I have a sack that desperately needs to be eaten and I need ideas!
KurtMay 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm
I’m making this tonight… have yet to taste it but it smells wonderful!