Comfortably Healthy

Comfortably Healthy


Soups, chilies and stews are more than just comfort food

We’ve successfully made it through another holiday season. Even though some of us may be feeling a bit worse for wear (slightly more sluggish and a wee bit rounder, perhaps), my guess is that it was completely worth it: deprivation is simply not part of the celebratory spirit. Food, fun and festivities go hand in hand. But now that the celebrations are over, it’s time to get back eating or even introducing healthier beans, lentils and grains into your diet with tasty, hearty and warming soups for the cold winter weeks ahead.

Curried Split Pea Soup
Curried Split Pea Soup

“A healthy diet is about moderation, not deprivation,” reports Dr. Catherine Chan, professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Alberta and co-author of Pure Prairie Eating Plan. “If you feel like you’re deprived, any diet is hard to sustain.

“Healthy eating is about eating a variety of foods from all the food groups and trying to focus on foods that don’t include too much of things like salt, sugar, fat and calories. It’s more about food than weight loss.”

The Pure Prairie Eating Plan takes the basics of the Mediterranean diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, plus a splash or two of olive oil) and puts a uniquely prairie twist on things by focusing on foods that are grown here on the prairies. Think beef, canola oil, beans and lentils, and a variety of grains, fruits and veggies.

“We know eating at home is healthier. The good news is it doesn’t have to be hard,” explains Chan. “Start simple with time-saving dishes that you can make in big batches: things like chili, soups and stews. They’re a perfect way to get more veggies into your diet, and you’ll have a lot of leftovers.”

Chan also urges us to be creative. Beans and lentils are loaded with protein, fibre and nutrients, so try tossing chickpeas into salads and puréed lentils into muffins.

“My mom never made soup from a recipe. She just saved up every leftover veggie, threw them all into a pot and saw what happened.”

And since time is always a concern, don’t be scared to use convenience products.  Frozen veggies, pre-cooked chicken and canned beans are all good options – just read labels and be aware that you might have to make minor adjustments (like rinsing canned beans to remove extra sodium).

“Nutrition advice changes a lot over time, but everyone agrees that eating more fruits and vegetables is a good thing,” says Chan. “But we’re not saying not to eat snacks or desserts. Just think about healthier options – if you love ice cream, try frozen yogurt instead.

“We need to recognize that the food we raise is healthy when it out comes out of the ground; we just have to be mindful about how we prepare it.”

Alberta Pulses. Surprisingly Good

Pulses include dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. Alberta farmers grow about 20 per cent of Canada’s dried peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

You can use pulses in salads and soups, or they can be puréed or used whole in appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, and baked foods. Canned beans, lentils, and chickpeas can be drained and rinsed to add to salads, soups, and, of course, chili. 

High in protein and low in fat, pulses are a rich source of fibre, folate, iron, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals. Pulses may help control blood sugars for type 2 diabetics and help control blood cholesterol levels. Pulses are also an important meat alternative for vegetarians and can be included in a gluten-free diet.

Alberta Pulse offers easy and delicious pulse recipes that will show you that pulses aren’t just good for you; they also taste surprisingly good. Visit for recipes, cooking tips, and more.

This chili is so full of flavour, filling, and comforting you won’t even guess that this it’s vegetarian

Serves 4 – serving size  approximately 1 ½ cups (375 mL)


Photo supplied by Taste Alberta
Photo supplied by Taste Alberta

Canola oil cooking spray

¼ cup onion

1 tbsp jalapeno pepper ribs and seeds removed, chopped

¼ cup celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried mustard

1 cup no-added-salt diced tomatoes, undrained

½ cup no-added-salt tomato sauce

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 cup great northern or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned (drained)

½ cup carrots, diced

½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

Pinch chipotle chili pepper

Dash freshly ground pepper

Dash Tabasco sauce (optional)


1. Lightly spray non-stick medium sauce pan with canola oil spray. Heat saucepan.

2. Cook onion, jalapeno pepper, celery and garlic for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add spices, cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, vinegar, beans, potatoes, corn, carrots and vegetable stock; bring to boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chowder has thickened. Season with pepper and chipotle chili if desired.

4. For added zing, add 1-2 mL (1/4 – 1/2 tsp) Tabasco sauce.


Per serving: 281 kcal, 2g fat, 0.2 g saturated fat, 56 g carbohydrate, 7 g fibre, 12 g protein.

Recipe courtesy of Pure Prairie Eating Plan

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