Nobody Guessed It Was “Vegetarian ” Chili

It must be hard living with a dietitian/nutritionist. My poor family has to put up with me constantly swapping healthy foods for their favorite, not so healthy ones. Well, this week I slipped in a vegetarian meal and they were not even aware. On Wednesday evening, they sat down to a hot bowl of  vegetarian chili and  didn’t even realize it was meatless!!! How funny is that?  (Now let’s  see if they are reading my blog.)

I am  sharing  this vegetarian chili recipe  with you, not only because it is a winner in taste, but because it is  also beneficial for your health and the health of the environment!  A plant based diet provides lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol, higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber and phytochemicals. Individuals following such a diet have a lower incidence of obesity, and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type  2 diabetes, and cancer.

Furthermore, a bowl of vegetarian chili is environmentally friendly! Consuming more plant based foods will reduce your carbon footprint and spare limited resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. More and more individuals are adopting vegetarian diets, even just for a day. This is what the public health campaign, backed by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School, Meatless Mondays, is all about.  This movement has been successful in improving knowledge about the personal and global benefits of moderating our meat consumption.

The Frog Commissary Cookbook by Steven Poses, Anne Clark, and Becky Roller is the original source of this recipe.  I have made a few modifications, primarily to decrease the sodium  and  the heat! (Heat is just a personal preference; I am not from Texas.)

Vegetarian Chili


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green peppers
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups low sodium tomato juice
  • 3/4 cup bulger wheat with soy
  • 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 15.5 oz can  undrained kidney beans (preferably Goya)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (for garnish)

Cooking Directions

Assemble ingredients. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat on high. Add onions, celery, green peppers, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, spices,  and pepper. Cook  for 1-2 minutes, while stirring.  Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, uncovered. Thin with additional tomato juice, if necessary.  Serves 8. Garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped green onion.
Vegetarian Chili
Nutrition Profile: 249 calories, 10 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrate, 11 g fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 358 mg sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber

It’s not necessary to become a vegetarian to gain some of the benefits of a plant based diet. Going meatless for one day a week can decrease your saturate fat intake by 15%!  It’s a simple way to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol and do something green!!! I hope you have enjoyed this post. I  would be grateful if you considered sharing the information by e-mailing it to a friend, or posting it on twitter or facebook. Thank You!

Diane Boyd, M.B.A., R.D., L.D.N.

Demystifying Salt and Sodium

Demystifying Salt and SodiumIn the past ten years, trans fats and refined carbs  have been in the nutritional spotlight. Today it’s salt and sodium. Salt is…, well, very ordinary.  Yet something so familiar can often be a source of confusion and misunderstanding. Today I hope to answer  “everything you wanted to know about salt, but were afraid to ask”.

What’s the difference between salt and sodium? Salt is actually sodium chloride, NaCl. Approximately 40% of table salt is sodium, and one teaspoon of table salt provides 2360 mg of sodium.

Why do you need sodium? Sodium is an essential mineral that maintains your body’s fluid balance.  It’s part of your blood, sweat and tears.  It is also essential for your muscles and nerves to operate properly. Your only source of sodium is food and drink; sodium is not made in the body.

What is the relationship between sodium and your health? Health experts warn us that too much sodium is linked to increased blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure, may decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Public Health experts  believe tens of thousands of lives could be saved  if Americans heed the warnings to reduce sodium intake. According to the CDC, a 10% reduction in sodium levels would prevent an estimated 28,000 deaths each year.

What is considered a healthy sodium intake?  The 2010 US Dietary Guidelines recommend less than 2300 mg of sodium daily, for the general adult. However, if you are in the high-risk group (this includes African-Americans, adults over 51 years of age and anyone with hypertension,  diabetes, or chronic renal disease)  your intake should be closer to 1500 mg. (Note: If you are an athlete or an individual involved in heavy physical labor and lose several pound of fluids due to physical activity, you may require more sodium than the general adult.)

What’s the average daily sodium intake? More than 3400 mg per day.

Where do Americans get most of their sodium?

Processed foods and foods eaten out account for approximately 75-80% of our daily intake.

Here are some common foods and the amounts of sodium they provide:

1 slice thin crust pepperoni pizza:  461 mg sodium

1-6.5 oz. can water or oil packed tuna:  544 mg sodium

3 oz. lunch meat: 1035 mg sodium

1 cup spaghetti sauce: 650 mg sodium

1 – 10.75 oz can of soup prepared according to directions: 1812 mg sodium

Big Mac: 1040 mg sodium

1 medium apple: 2 mg sodium

3 oz broiled salmon: 64 mg Na

8 oz. skim milk: 103 mg

Looking at the above foods and their respective sodium contents, it should not surprise you that only 10 % of your intake is likely to come from the natural sodium content of food. Another 5-10% is said to come from the salt shaker, with the remaining 75-80% coming from processed foods and foods eaten at restaurants and fast food establishments!!!

How can you cut back on daily sodium intake?

Read the Nutrition Facts Labels on prepared foods.  The sodium content frequently varies between brands of the same food. Look for brands with lower amounts of sodium. Choose prepared foods that have 5% or less Daily Value (DV) for sodium.  A  20% Daily Value (DV) indicates the food is high in sodium.

Choose foods labeled low-sodium or reduced sodium. (Foods must have less than 140 mg sodium per serving to be labeled as low-sodium.)

Replace your salt shaker with a pepper mill to  enhance flavor  to your meals without additional salt.

Eat more fresh foods. When grocery shopping, shop the perimeter of the store. Processed foods tend to be in the aisles. Limit or avoid  processed foods such as cured meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meat, canned foods, boxed refrigerated or frozen convenience meals.

Make it yourself. When you prepare your own food you have more control over the nutritional content. Cook with fresh and frozen veggies. Use dried beans instead of canned, when you can. Rinse canned veggies and beans to eliminate some of the added salt.

Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor without added salt.

Go easy on condiments. Sauces, marinades and salad dressings  boost more than flavor! They can quickly hike up the sodium content of a food!

Pay attention to portions. If you consume 2 portions of something, you have doubled your sodium intake.

Read restaurant menu information online to determine foods that provide sodium within your desired levels. Visit those restaurants.

Schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian to help find foods you love that are lower in sodium for better heart health. To find a dietitian in your area go to

Have I answered your question?  If not, please leave me a comment and I will!  Have a happy and healthy week!!!

Diane Boyd, M.B.A., R.D., L.D.N.





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