If you’ve ever cozied up to a warm bowl of chili, you know how satisfying this hearty comfort food is and want to know from us, registered dietitians, if there are easy ways to make chili healthier and better for losing weight too. After all, as weight loss experts, we realize that one of the beautiful things about chili is not only how easy it is to make for weekday dinners (just throw the ingredients in a pot or slow cooker and just let the heat do the magic), but also that it’s satisfying and staves off hunger. Any healthy addition to chili needs to make the prep just as effortless and leaving it feeling just as hearty while making losing weight easier. Great news—we’ve got eight easy ways to make chili healthier—and they help with weight loss too.
“Beef up” the beans.
When you increase the amount of beans you use, by default, you’ll either use less meat or your chili will be stretched further, making each serving contain less fat and fewer calories—and it will be easier on your wallet. The beans will also bump up the fiber, magnesium and folic acid and may help to increase the body’s good (HDL) cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, as well as inflammation.
Check out this Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili recipe that has two kinds of beans plus chicken.
Pump up the creamy satisfaction, fiber and nutrients with pumpkin.
Pumpkin is rich in fiber, vitamin E and potassium as well as beta carotene and lutein which help protect the body from developing chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration and other age-related vision loss. The flavor is very subtle, but the creaminess isn’t! Just be sure to use canned 100% pumpkin puree vs. pumpkin pie mix, which is sweetened.
Does pumpkin help with Weight loss?
You bet! An entire can of nutrient packed pumpkin has only 140 calories and adds a delectable creaminess, 15 grams of fiber and 1,200% of the DV for vitamin A! Hello thick and creamy chili without the hundreds of calories you’d get in just a tablespoon or two of other creamy additions. Dump the whole can in the pot of chili and get ready to enjoy! (Pumpkin is one of those amazing foods that helps your body to work better– thanks to all of it’s nutrients– which is critical when you’re looking to achieve long-lasting weight loss.)
Spice it up!
One of the best ways to enhance flavor and boost antioxidants at the same time is by adding spices—and it doesn’t add fat or calories like most flavor enhancers do. Experiment with various flavors ranging from bold to sweet, including cumin, turmeric, chili powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper, cinnamon and allspice. All spices fight against inflammation and each spice has different benefits. Some research even shows red pepper may help with weight loss, cinnamon may help to regulate blood sugar, while cumin helps to fight bacteria and parasites.
This One-Pot Black Bean Quinoa Chili with Avocado is one of our favorite variations of a chili. It uses chili powder and cumin and when you heat them in the EVOO, the house smells so aromatic and delicious—so hard to believe there are no calories or salt in these spices! And talk about filling!
Squeeze in some lime.
Lime adds a tangy punch and a lot of flavor with hardly any calories and is packed with antioxidants that mop up damaging free-radicals, protecting the body from chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It’s a rich source of limonoids that help to lower cholesterol and seem to protect against several cancers.
Boost nutrition by adding the nutrient dense powerhouse red onion.
Red onions have been found to help health in many ways ranging from fighting against cancer to acting as a natural antibiotic.
Reap the benefits of red onion (as well as cinnamon and nutmeg) in this Chunky Sweet Potato Kale Chili.
Go wild with vegetables.
By adding extra veggies you’ll reduce calories while increasing nutrients, fiber and satisfaction. Bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, crushed tomatoes, onions and carrots are all great, low-calorie choices. These, non-starchy, fiber-packed vegetables are the ideal addition for chili-eaters who are weight conscious because they’re satisfying and fill you up with fiber, while providing few calories. Plus, research has shown that there is an inverse relationship between weight gain and vegetable intake. Vegetables are also packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals which mop up free radicals and protect the body against disease.
Upgrade your chili topping.
Swap out sour cream and replace it with creamy avocado. Avocado is packed with more than 20 vitamins and minerals and its’ good-for-you fat acts as a nutrient booster and helps to enhance the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like beta carotene, which is typically found in the tomatoes or tomato sauces found in most chili and is especially helpful for the eyes and skin.
This “chili” uses chickpeas and includes quinoa. It’s the ultimate satisfying, comfort food
Top your chili with Greek yogurt.
You’ll get all the creaminess of sour cream but for much fewer calories and fat, plus a dose of good-for-your-gut probiotics and without the preservatives and additives you typically get in sour cream. Add a creamy half cup of a nonfat Greek yogurt to your chili for only 67 calories, 12 grams of protein and no fat. Sour cream has more than triple the number of calories (220), 2.5 grams of protein and 23 grams of fat in the same portion of sour cream—and you’ll still get 12% of the daily value for calcium.
Among many things, we help our clients to make their favorite meals healthier so their body functions better– they better fight disease and their metabolism is more efficient. We also help them to lose weight without feeling deprived.
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