Chili is a classic American dish with numerous variations, from vegetarian bean-filled chili to beefy bean-free chili recipes. Whether it's homemade, canned or from your favorite restaurant, get the scoop on the nutrition and calories in a bowl of chili.
Classic homemade chili provides about 264 calories per cup, while canned chili can have as over 360 calories. Homemade versions typically have less saturated fat and sodium than canned or restaurant chili.
The Basic Ingredients In Chili
Whether you like it ultra spicy or with just a little heat, the main ingredients in chili are essentially the same. A typical recipe calls for ground beef, kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and onion. Spices like chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper give it that flavorful and spicy kick.
Read More: Are Hot Peppers Good For You?
According to the USDA, there around 264 calories in homemade chili with ground beef and kidney beans per cup. This classic dish is also packed with protein and fiber. Tomatoes, one of its main ingredients, contain vitamin C and lycopene, which may lower the risk of prostate cancer, according to Harvard Health.
Additionally, homemade chili with hot peppers adds an extra-healthy kick. An August 2015 study in the BMJ has found that people who ate spicy foods every day (versus once a week) had a 14 percent lower risk of death. Researchers believe that capsaicin, an active compound in in spicy foods, helps lower cholesterol and decreases inflammation.
Unfortunately, classic chili can be high in calories, saturated fat and sodium, so it should be enjoyed in moderation. Additional toppings can also really increase the calories in a bowl of chili. Here are some popular chili toppings and their caloric values:
Restaurant and Canned Chili Calories
Commercial chili often has more fat, sodium and preservatives than its homemade counterpart. For instance, a large serving of Wendy's chili contains 250 calories and has 21 grams of protein. It also boasts over 1 gram of sodium and 2.5 grams of saturated fat.
By comparison, one cup of Applebee's chili has 214 calories, 17.1 grams of protein, 518 milligrams of sodium and 5.6 grams of saturated fat. Panera Bread has a turkey chili option with 210 calories, 15 grams of protein and 580 milligrams of sodium per cup.
Depending on the brand and type, canned chili is the least nutritious option. Wolf Brand Canned Chili has 360 calories in one cup, along with 7 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of sodium. Hormel Chili with Beans provides 270 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 990 milligrams of sodium per can (8.7 ounces).
If you're looking for a healthier option, consider Amy's Organic Chili. It contains all organic ingredients, offering 300 calories and 770 milligrams of sodium per serving(9.1 ounces).
Healthier Options for Chili
Looking for a healthy bowl of chili? Start with the toppings. Instead of piling on shredded cheese or sour cream, use reduced-fat versions or add just a pinch to cut back on calories. A few slices of avocado add creaminess, while cilantro, jalapeño or green onions add flavor.
The American Heart Association states that the ideal limit of sodium is 1.5 grams per day. Consider cooking chili at home to cut down on salt.
Look for low-sodium kidney and black beans and rinse them before adding to the pot. Also, use low-sodium diced tomatoes and lean ground beef, turkey or white meat chicken. Add less salt and plenty of minced garlic and other seasonings, such as chili powder, cumin and, for added heat, cayenne pepper.
Read More: 10 Hearty and Healthy Chili Recipes
You can also leave out the meat altogether and make vegetarian chili to decrease the calories and saturated fat in your dish. Simply add in two extra cans of beans instead of meat.
- The BMJ: "Consumption of Spicy Foods and Total and Cause Specific Mortality"
- USDA: "Chili Con Carne With Beans"
- Harvard Health: "10 Superfoods To Boost A Healthy Diet"
- USDA: "Cheese, Cheddar"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Cultured Sour Cream"
- Frito Lay: "Fritos Original Corn Chips"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Jalapeno Peppers"
- Wendy's: "Chili"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Applebee's Chili"
- Panera Bread: "Panera Bread Nutritional Information"
- Wolf Brand: "Original Chili With Beans"
- Hormel: "Hormel Chili With Beans"
- Amy's: "Amy's Organic Chili"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"