Wednesday, December 10

Healthy Chili Your Kids Will Love and Supporting Healthy Schools Campaign

chili 3

A few weeks ago I claimed that when I was a kid, the best part of my school day was when it ended. That was because I knew when I got home my mom would have an after-school snack waiting for me.

What I didn't say was that the second best part of my school day was lunchtime. I was lucky since I never ate in a school cafeteria. There were no soggy bologna and cheese sandwiches for me. Instead when I opened my lunch box, something delicious made by my mom was waiting for me. Come to think of it, I was truly fortunate.

Sometimes it was basic like homemade chicken or lentil soup in a thermos; other times it was fancier like baked veal cutlets. Then there were the days I opened my lunch box and discovered an eggplant parmigiana sandwich or a spinach pie (I would have to stifle a squeal of delight.) Then I didn't feel quite so bad about missing the capital of South Dakota on my quiz that morning. (It's Pierre.)


One of my mom's keys to making healthy and delicious lunches was to buy food in bulk. Then she would plan ahead: most Sundays she would bake extra chicken cutlets or make a huge vat of vegetable soup that could be used for our lunches all week long. Of course we did get the occasional ham and cheese or pastrami sandwich, but never bologna. Blegh. And though most days we got a sweet treat like a cookie, Mom made sure that every day included fresh fruit that we liked. Because really have you ever seen a child actually eat one of those sad, mushy red delicious apples that comes on their school lunch tray?

So even though I don't have little ones to make lunch for, I still think providing children with healthy and flavorful lunches is important. That's why I'm submitting my healthy chili to Leena of Leena Eats who is hosting "Fresh Voices for Fresh Choices: A healthier school lunch, one story at a time." Leena has joined the Healthy Schools Campaign in an effort to "give our kids fresh, healthy food at school and a chance to be active during the day."

Like most kids, I still love not-necessarily-good-for-you-food like pizza, macaroni and cheese, and chili. However, with a little tweaking, you can reduce the fat and calories in these dishes and pump up the nutrition.

My Healthy Chili is made with extra lean hamburger (84% or 92% works well) and is chock-full of nutritious veggies like zucchini, red bell pepper, beans, and tomatoes. It's made with lean protein, which is necessary for building muscle and bones; it's high in vitamin A, which helps maintain ocular health, vitamin C, which helps the body heal more quickly, and lycopene, a carotinoid associated with a lower risk of cancer. Plus it's rich in fiber, which is important for promoting digestive health as well as lowering the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

And if that isn't enough to convince you, then just eat it because it's delicious. My older brother and his wife have been making this chili for their lunches, and the last time I spoke with him, he said, "We can't stop eating that chili! It's sooo good." It's amazing what a little cinnamon can do.

If you'd like to get involved and help support school wellness programs, then visit to learn how and to sign the petition. Because all children deserve a lunch that tastes good and is good for them.

chili 2

Healthy Chili

This healthy chili is made with extra lean hamburger and is packed with good-for-you veggies. Enjoy it on its own, or serve it with baked tortilla chips or warm whole wheat tortillas.

Makes 6-8 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 pound extra lean hamburger (I use 84% or 92% lean)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
1 (15 oz) can corn kernels, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained
1 (28 oz) plus 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1/2 cup water*
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons fajita spice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne**
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm canola oil. Add onions and saute until translucent and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add ground hamburger and saute until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add red bell pepper and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, water, and brown sugar; stir well. Add fajita spice, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon; stir well. Reduce heat to low; partially cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until thick and soupy. Cook longer if you like your vegetables softer. If desired, sprinkle with a little cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro before serving.

*Note: I use 1/2 cup water for a thicker chili, but use as much or as little as you wish to achieve desired level of soupiness.
**If your child doesn't like too much heat, then simply reduce or eliminate the cayenne pepper.

Your kids might also like these healthy dishes:

Healthy Muffins

Mom's Chocolate Pudding with Bananas and Graham Crackers (and learn how to make sure your children are getting enough calcium in their diet)

Italian Escarole and Bean Soup

Orange Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese (yes, it's healthier and good)


Finla said...

I have never ever had chillie, i have heard of them so much but till now not cookesd them.
I am with your mom. I always make soup for threedays and keep them in tuperware in the fridge. Sometimes i make them in bult and freeze them in portions.
One way of making my daughter eat vegetables when she was little was to make soup.

Culinary Wannabe said...

What a great mom to send you to school with such amazing lunches! My mom tried sending us with similar things, but would get so frustrated because we would always throw the thermoses away or leave them in our classrooms over the weekend. Yuk!

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

Great chili! I want your mom to pack my lunch:)

Maria said...

I make a similar chili and I love it! It is so good and good for you! This is perfect for winter too!

Chibog in Chief said...

oh my goodness!! Its never good to be away for a while in the blogging world. Glad to be back I could have missed this delicious chili treat! I have a 5 kilos of red beans I could use perfectly for this recipe! Thanks Susan...

btw, i hope i wont be late for your christmas cookie event! i had so much fun last year; count me in dear

Snooky doodle said...

great dish and healthy too. What can i ask for more ??? Great mum !!!

Susan C said...

So true about those sad, mushy apples that are rotting in land fills all over the country. Ditto for those little boxes of Sun Maid Raisins that make moms think they are providing a nutritious lunch. I think more are tossed than consumed.

This chilli looks like it's destined to fill happy tummies (not trash bins).

Rita said...

That's lovely Susan! I often imagine the day I will be packing my kids (which I don't have yet) lunch box...
And thanks for the petition link too.

Kara said...

Darn... just when I thought I had my chili recipe down, this one looks too good not to try! Does it freeze well, by any chance? Might be perfect to make a batch this weekend to have on hand for Christmas visitors.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Susan. I will definitely have to add this to my arsenal of chili recipes. Thanks for helping out and signing the petition!

Anonymous said...

The picture of the chili with all those bright colors just looks so inviting and healthy. I can't comment on kids' lunches (I was never that successful in getting my son to eat what I packed him for lunch) but for my lunch, this would be perfect.

Karen said...

This chili is so thick, it looks like it would be good as a dip with tortilla chips, too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Healthy, colorful and tasty! Impossible to go wrong with such a great dish!



sunita said...

I love your chilli, Susan...and i also love your mom :-)

Anonymous said...

I love how you take these classic rich dishes and make them so healthy. Delicious looking chili! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Patsyk said...

I'm always looking for delicious and healthy ideas for my boys lunches. Gonna have to work on them with chili though... they won't touch it for some reason! Soups are always a hit with them though.

Farming Fabulously said...

Now that is what I call Chili. Looks so tasty.

Michelle said...

I don't have kids but feel very passionate about changing the way kids eat! Probably because I too always had a lunch made by mom! I wish I knew how to contribute more to this cause so I'm going to check out all those links :-) Thanks!

As for chili, there's no reason to NOT add veggies. Yours looks great!

Cakespy said...

Yum!!!!!!! And healthy to boot. You rule!

Anonymous said...

This looks great Susan! I love the addition of the brown sugar. I'll have to give that a try the next time I make chili. All the veggies make it so colorful as well as nutritous!

Dewi said...

OMG, to be honest with you I never made any kind of Chili dish before. I heard so much about how good it is! I should really try it one day. Yours sounds very delectable!

Heather said...

beautiful chili! it looks really tasty... and healthy :) and putting corn in anything... makes me want it!

Manggy said...

Forget healthy, I would dive into this mouth-first because it just. Looks. So. @#$@ing. GOOD!
Imagining you as a little kid stifling her squeal of delight is just making me LOL :) You must have been the luckiest kid ever to have eaten so many wonderful dishes! :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I used to volunteer at my daughters elementary school for their hot lunch program. They didn't always love everything on the menu such as ham and scalloped potatoes but the ladies really made an effort to have hot , nutitional meals on our kids plates. In fact I had to watch the lunch program menu to make sure I didn't amke the same things for dinner.

Anonymous said...

This chili looks so delicious and what's better... healthy! I loved it!
Come to visit me at Chocorango!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

happycook-Freezing soup in portions is a great idea! I haven't done that.

cwannabe-She was (and is) a great mom. :)

lisa-Seriously. ;)

maria-I know!

dhanggit-Welcome back! :) I'll look forward to your cookies. I remember your unique mango cookies from last year.


susan-I forgot about the raisins. ;)

rita-At least you'll have a chili recipe ready to go. ;) And it was my pleasure.

kara-I don't freeze chili, but my mom used to. She recommends cooling it completely, then storing it in air-tight freezer proof containers. Then defrost in the fridge. Good luck!

leena-It was my pleasure!

julie-It's adult-friendly too. :)

karen-It is. Trust me! ;)

rosa-I know!

sunita-You're so sweet. :)

farida-I have fun doing it and am glad you like it.

patsy-Won't touch chili? Hmmmm... that's concerning indeed. ;)

farmfab-Thanks so much!

michelle-I'm so happy to hear you'll be checking it out. It's such an important cause for those with and without children. Thanks!

cakespy-Aw shuck, thank you m'am. ;)

elly-That little bit of sweetness goes a long way. I just love it.

elra-You simply have to try it!

heather-I love corn too.

mark-@#$@ing good? Wow! Thanks! ;)

val-But at least they were introducing kids to healthier meals, and over time, the kids usually start eating a wider variety of foods. So that's just wonderful!

talita-Welcome! Thank you.

Deeba PAB said...

Can you adopt my kids Susan? They'll love you to death!!! Lots of love

Anonymous said...

your chili looks amazing!! very hearty and filling! i can't wait to try your healthy tasty muffins!!!

Anonymous said...

I never had chilli.. looks really delicious and certainly very healthy

Pearl said...

looks perfect for cold nights! i try to make a healthy version of chili for my brothers, too, as they are big lovers of chili. i make mine with ground turkey, and the rest just contains spices, vegetables, and beans! the spices make the biggest difference in the world!

Wendy said...

Oh, yum! Making this on Sunday for my lunches next week. Lovely. :)

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Very nice story... and delicious looking chili. I made yesterday white kidney beans with mango and raisins, I tried to recreate Heinz curry baked beans, he he... my favourite.

Hope you had wonderful weekend, Margot

Unknown said...

That looks really tasty in addition to healthy!

Jeanne said...

I remember the girls in the boarding school hostel at my high school getting white bread bologna sandwiches for lunch with a THICK layer of margarine and just feelign ill at the thought!!
Great minds think alike - I also posted chilli over the festive season, although mine was a far simpler after-work-dinner affair. Will have to seek out black beans at the speciality section in our supermarket and why oh why don't I usually add corn??

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.