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!

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 Tablespoon chili powder

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

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.