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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Enjoy your holiday chili with a few healthy alternatives

Bowl of red-colored soup with a spoon and green garnishes set on a black table.

At the first hint of cooler weather, there will be those (me included) running to the kitchen to make a pot of chili. It can be made a thousand different ways, each person claiming they have the secret ingredient that makes their chili win the beloved chili cookoff. There’s no right or wrong way to make chili, but there are a few things you can do to make it healthier.

Soups, including chili, are a great way to add more vegetables to the diet. Besides the common veggies like bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, consider carrots, celery, parsnips, or sweet potatoes. Canned pumpkin contributes a healthy dose of vitamin A and fiber, giving the chili a silky texture, but otherwise not even knowing it’s there. Also, don’t forget the beans! Beans are high in fiber and protein and can be used to replace all or half of the ground beef. Whether you use ground beef or ground turkey, select the leanest option. “93/7” indicates 93 percent lean meat and 7 percent fat, which is a good option. Soups tend to be high in sodium, which in excess can lead to high blood pressure. Reduce the sodium by choosing no added salt or low sodium canned beans and increase the spices to intensify the flavor rather than adding salt. Top chili with diced avocado, sliced green onions or chopped cilantro.

Chili is always best a day after it’s cooked to allow time for flavors to meld. Store chili in the refrigerator for no more than four days; freeze what’s not used and enjoy chili for many more months to come!


Pumpkin Chili

(Printable PDF)

1 lb. lean ground turkey

1 small white onion, diced

3 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 (15 oz.) can low sodium black beans

1 (15 oz.) can low sodium kidney beans

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 cup water

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

4.5 oz. can green chilies (optional)       

In large stewpot, add turkey and onions. Heat on medium until turkey is browned. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Drain off any grease. Drain and rinse beans. Add beans and the remainder of ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 227 calories, 8 grams fat, 345 milligrams sodium, 28 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams dietary fiber, 15 grams protein

Recipe Source:  Lisa Peterson, Nutrition & Wellness Educator


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond. 


This blog originally appeared in the Pantagraph on October 13, 2021.