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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Let's Talk About Chili

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A bowl of chili. I’m sure we may all have a special memory that involves chili. This warm dish often signifies fall and cool weather; it warms you up from the inside out. Maybe you had chili while sitting snuggling by the fire, a chili cheese dog right after a cold game, or maybe it's one of the first foods you made by yourself in college. Today as I make chili for my kids, I’m reminded of the chili from my childhood. I honestly think it had three ingredients- beef, tomato sauce, and kidney beans.

Why, mom? I’m sure you were just trying to please our simple palates, and I know I loved it back then. But being the foodie that I am today, I’ve got to spice it up a bit; well, a lot. Chili is meant for so much more -- it’s the best vessel for veggies! And my kids love it, too. Just for you, I’ve compiled my favorite chili ingredients and recipes. Enjoy.

  • Chocolate. Yeah, I said it, and I’ll say it again. Chocolate. It’s no coincidence that it made it to the top of my list. I’m a sucker for dark chocolate, and it often makes an appearance in my chili too. Add cocoa powder to chili for that sweet and savory richness you crave. Recipe: Chili with Chipotle and Chocolate 
  • Turkey. Make your chili lean with turkey. I especially love it paired with white beans! Recipe: White Bean and Turkey Chili
  • Beans and more beans. Garbanzos, pinto, kidney, white beans, black beans, make chili so hearty, you won’t even miss the meat. Recipe: The Best Veggie Chili
  • Kale. Recipe: Easy Turkey Chili with Kale
  • Corn. I keep corn in the freezer for tossing into soups, corn muffins, or stir-fry. I like the mix of sweet and crunchy, along with the yellow contrast color that it adds to chili.
  • Squash. Butternut, zucchini, and pumpkin add a delicious creaminess to soup. Puree it or shred it in these veggies for more nutrition per spoonful. Recipe: Black Bean ‘n’ Pumpkin Chili
  • Sriracha. This red-hot sauce is a personal favorite. Just a drop or two per bowl kicks the chili up a notch.
  • Quinoa. Add this high-protein, gluten-free grain or other whole grains like rice or barley to your chili for a nutty flavor and chunky texture that is super satisfying; making it feel like a complete meal. Recipe: Quinoa and Black Bean Chili
  • It’s all about the toppings. Move over cheese and sour cream, my favorite toppings for chili are cilantro, squeeze of lime, red onion, avocado, chives, and jalapenos.

 How do you like your chili?

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Recipes

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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