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Tips on how to make chili healthier and more nutritious? What do you add?

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I love chili, but I'm worried it may not as be as healthy as i hope. Right now I am making it like this:

1 can of diced tom. 

1 can of chili beans

1 medium onion 

1/2 pound of ground beef 93% lean 

2 Jalepenos 

1/2 packet of hot chili mix

sprinkle some garlic salt 

I think that's about everything. I usually top it with some cheese (2%) but just a pinch. 

What do you add to make it healthier/nutritious? 

Edited Mar 03 2010 12:43 by clairelaine
Reason: Moved To Recipes Forum
58 Replies (last)

I do pretty much the same thing, but I also dice up and add a small orange, yellow and red bell pepper.  Sometimes, (even though the beans themselves are a carb) I'll add some corn to make it more Mexican style. I love chili!  I can eat it year round!

I agree with both of you; and sometimes I might just add some peas or corn or lima beans or red or black beans I might have in the freezer just sort of going to waste.

The one thing I have added with great success (for me) is diced celery and on occasion diced carrots.

What I have gone to is using no-sodium V-8 juice as my base.

I, too, could eat veggie chili (and, yes, meat chili, too) a heck of a lot more often than I do.  I think it is a very healthy food source, overall.

Same stuff basically except I use ground chicken instead of ground beef and a red pepper. You may want to use garlic powder instead of salt, I bet there is a lot of salt in your hot chili mix. Instead of a chili mix I make my own with chili powder, cayenne powder, and cumin.

were you aware that hot chiles (such as those jalepenos) help boost your metabolism? It's great stuff.

Making your own chili mix is a good idea.  Grass fed beef is also better if you can find/afford it.

I use ground turkey breast in mine. It has a better texture i think and less fat  than most beef :)

I love eggplant in my chili, and bell peppers, and really any other vegetable thats been hanging out in my fridge. Sometimes I add some extra kidney beans and leave out the meat altogether.

My question is... how do you determine how many calories this is? And how much is one serving? I'd like to say I trust myself in knowing how much is enough, but I'm a newbie and totally shouldn't be trusted! :)

In general, to make any dish healthier and lower in calories per portion the rules of thumb are

  • Add more vegetables, beans and other foods of plant origin
  • Use less oil or fat
  • Use less meat
  • Season with herbs and spices rather than salt

With a chilli therefore..... add more onions, tomatoes, beans and other veggies (green pepper etc.).  Use less oil.  Use lean meat.  Flavour with garlic and ground/fresh chillis rather than using chilli beans, garlic salt and chilli mix

I would add a bunch of vegetables- eggplant, zuchinni, butternut squash. Adds a lot of bulk without too many calories. I'd also add extra beans (I love beans) and you could throw in some mushrooms for a meaty texture.

I had a great recipe for turkey chili from Rose Reisner (I think) and she suggested that you add barley to thicken the broth and make it more healthy (a carb but a healthy one :)).. I have also added this to spaghetti sauce and lasagne and nobody knows that it isn't meat......

I like my chili thick, so besides one can of beans, I also puree another can of kidney beans (no salt added) and add it.  It adds extra fiber, protein and a whole lot of other good stuff, while making a thicker chili.  I also use peppers and corn--and sometimes even grated carrots.  Just add the veggies early, and the beans closer to serving time.

Thanks for the suggestions! Can't wait to try the suggestions. I want to try turkey, but is it really that much healthier? 

1) Substitute ground turkey for ground beef.  Add some low sodium beef broth if you are concerned about the slight flavor difference.


2) Add a cup of lentils and reduce the meat by 1/2.  


3) Add lots of diced fresh vegetables onions, celery, peppers (red, orange, yellow, green bells).

I second the suggestion: puree another can of beans - it makes a great chili thickener (sp?).  The puree method can also be used on other vegetables that your kids might cringe at eating!

If you don't want to substitute ground turkey for beef you can always do vegetarian chili, which is equally delicious.

Or you can make a white chili, which uses chicken instead.

I would NEVER use a mix, as they are typically full of sodium and preservatives. Those nasty things make your liver go into overdrive, reducing your fat burning capability!

Here's my recipe for white chili, made from scratch:

For the chicken:
Two chicken breasts (I used skinless w/bones for more flavor, but I guess you could use boneless)
organic chicken stock
1 Sliced onion
3 large cloves crushed garlic
salt & pepper
white wine
olive oil

heat small amount of oil in a pan on med high heat. Rub breasts (haha) with salt, pepper.  Sear breasts on each side, until browned. (I deglazed the pan with a little white wine, but you can use beer or whatever) Add onions, garlic, and chicken stock and simmer on low or higher heat depending on what length of time you want to leave it--I put it on low for a couple hours until it started to fall off the bones.

for the chili:

bay leaf
1 med. onion-diced
1 small head garlic-minced
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tblsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
stock and or beer (until it covers beans-I used a little beer and stock)
2 cans great northern beans drained and rinsed
1 can canollini beans drained and rinsed
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 cup corn (i used frozen)
1 large yellow pepper- diced
2 jalapenos- diced ( 4 for lots of heat, or you can remove the seeds if you don't like it too spicy)
sea salt to taste (i gave it a good punch)
fresh cilantro-chopped
grated cheese (i used white cheddar and pepper jack)
sour cream (I used fat free)
olive oil

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Cook onions til they start to become transparent; do not brown. Add garlic and peppers. Cook until tender crisp. Add mushrooms and corn cook another minute or so, then add beans and spices, then cover with stock and a little beer. Bring to a boil.

In the meantime, using a fork, shred the simmered chicken (this should be easy if the chicken is cooked properly). Add chicken to chili. Turn down heat and simmer for about a half hour. Add 1 cup of fat free or low fat sour cream to thicken ( you can also use cornstarch)

Serve with shredded cheese, dollop of sour cream, and chopped cilantro (you can use fat free sour cream and cut out the cheese to reduce the calories)


Being a Texas native - Chili is a very serious subject for us.  There are so many versions.   I'm going to give you the recipe for authentic chili,  as it was developed along the Chisholm Trail that ran through Texas to Kansas in the 1800's.  Hundreds of thousands of wild Longhorn cattle were gathered from Mexico and Texas and taken to market in Kansas.  Part of that trail ran through Ft.Worth (my home town).    Having the longhorns for meat,  and spices that would travel well by wagon,  the cooks developed this wonderful dish.  If you want to taste chili the way the cowboys ate it, give this a try.  BTW -Longhorn beef is lower in fat than chicken.

  • 2 pounds of lean beef chuck roast,  cut into 1" pieces.
  • bacon drippings to brown meat (of course, you can use favorite oil)
  • one onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T. Mexican chili powder (not seasoning)
  • 1 T. cumin
  • Liquid that is available (leftover coffee from the morning's pot and water) to cover meat
  • dried jalapeno or anco pepper, if you like it hot (I don't add these)

Brown the meat in hot oil.  Turn down heat and add onions and garlic.  Cook until soft. Put meat back and add spices, turning meat to coat.  Add liquid to cover meat about 2 inches above (you can check level of liquid as it cooks).  Simmer for about 3 hours or until the meat is fork-tender.  Adjust amount of salt and/or spices during the cooking process.  This is a matter of personal taste.   When meat is done,  add a little Masa flour (or regular flour) to thicken the broth (but not too thick).

*Please note that there are NO BEANS added or NO TOMATOES!!!  Beans were always available as a staple along the trail and added to the bowl if wanted.  Serve cornbread with the chili.

When I raised Longhorn cattle, I cooked this recipe in a big iron pot in my fireplace.  It was always a big hit - never any leftovers.

Original Post by melika08:

I want to try turkey, but is it really that much healthier? 

No it's not.  Turkey is turkey, beef is beef and both have their own nutritional attributes.   Turkey has less fat per 100g,  beef has a much higher iron content, and that's just the tip of the ice-berg.  The danger of saying 'turkey is healthier' just because it contains less fat is that if you only ever ate turkey meat you'd actually be getting a very restricted diet which, ironically, is less healthy.  Enjoy all types of meat in moderate-sized portions and get the best of all worlds. 

I do a weird thing with chili. I tear up a bunch of green leaf lettuce or Romaine in a bowl. Carefully measure 1/3 cup of chili. (The measuring means you can guestimate the calories easier.) Mix it into the bowl of lettuce, add some chopped onion and salsa. Microwave for about 60-100 seconds to wilt the lettuce. I swear it is really good. It needs lots of lettuce to make it work. If you can spare the calories, a few torilla crumbs from the bottom of a bag of chips gives it extra flavor.

Here is my all time favorite chili recipe - the pumpkin really thickens it up and it delicious! You can also throw in some of the canned chipotle peppers to vary the flavor a bit and add some heat.

1 tablespoon olive  oil or cooking spray

1 can (14.5 oz.) no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained

1 small onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1-2 portobello muchrooms chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 oz.) Pumpkin


½ cup corn (yield from one year)

1 can (14 fl. oz.) vegetable broth or water

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste



Heat oil or cooking spray in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in cumin and thyme; cook,stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add beans, pumpkin, corn, tomatoes and juice, broth and/orwater to desired consistency; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook for 10 minutes. Stir in salt and cayenne pepper.

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