Watch out for the salt in canned chili

Environmental Nutrition

Nothing warms you up on a chilly day quite like a steaming bowl of chili. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to chop up the veggies and wait for everything to simmer into a flavorful one-pot-meal of comfort, that’s where prepared chili comes in. Just pop open the can — most are canned, but refrigerated and frozen products also are available — heat the chili and you’re ready for a quick, satisfying meal.

Whether your tastes lean toward the classic “con carne” (with beef), bean-filled, bean-less or vegetarian, there’s a store-bought chili out there for everyone —- several to be more precise. Prepared chili also gives you a choice when it comes to meat varieties (beef, pork, chicken or turkey), spiciness and special flavor additions (black bean, red bean or chipotle), too.

But how does store-bought chili stack up nutritionally? As with many prepared and processed foods, some chili products can be filled with sodium and saturated fat. However they also can be good sources of fiber and protein, both of which can help satisfy you and keep you feeling full.

Check out these tips

Go for the beans. An alternative to meat-based chili is chili beans. They’re beans flavored with cumin, garlic and more, making a great source of plant-based protein and fiber.

Balance out your meal. Round out your chili meal with a veggie-rich salad and whole grains, such as whole grain crackers, corn bread, whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

Cut the sodium. High sodium levels are a concern with many supermarket chilis. If your favorite brand is on the high side, cut the sodium by stretching the roughly two servings per package to three or four. To do so, simply add corn, beans, chopped vegetables or diced tomatoes to increase the amount of servings you get from the can — thus slashing the salt per serving. And if you do choose canned chili, use low-sodium varieties or drain and rinse well before using.