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Add protein to your diet with this easy one-pot chili

One-pot lentil chili

/ by Sean O'Nan, MS, RD, LD

Written by Sean O'Nan, a registered dietitian at UK Markey Cancer Center.

When trying to plan a healthy, balanced meal, it's important to include a variety of foods rich in protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that is used by our bodies to help keep our muscles strong and our cells working properly. For those with cancer, consuming extra protein is important to meet the increased demands that cancer and different treatments can place on their bodies.

Depending on your specific dietary restrictions, you may believe that you aren’t able to eat enough protein each day – but you can! While animal products can be good sources of protein, you can also find other plant-based proteins to help fortify your diet.

If you are still having a difficult time eating enough protein, consider drinking it. Adding a scoop or two of whey protein powder is another quick way to incorporate extra protein to your favorite smoothies or milkshakes.

Here are some examples of good protein-rich foods you can include in your diet:

  • Meats (beef, pork, poultry, fish).
  • Eggs.
  • Beans.
  • Dairy products (milk, cheeses, yogurts).
  • Nuts and nut butters.
  • Lentils.
  • Some breads and cereals.
  • Tofu.

With the seasons beginning to change, it’s time to bring out our favorite seasonal dishes. If you or your family enjoys a hearty chili recipe, consider this alternative with protein-rich lentils! Watch the video below to learn how to make it.

  • One-Pot Lentil Chili Recipe


    • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
    • 1 yellow onion chopped
    • 1 large red bell pepper chopped
    • 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
    • 4 teaspoons salt-free chili powder
    • 1 (16-ounce) package brown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups lentils)
    • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


    1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.
    2. When hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables brown and begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about six minutes.
    3. Stir in three tablespoons of the broth and continue to cook, stirring, until onion is soft and lightly browned.
    4. Stir in garlic and chili powder and cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils, tomatoes and remaining broth.
    5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until lentils are almost tender.
    6. Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer. Stir in cilantro and serve.


    For additional information regarding diet and nutrition for cancer patients at UK Markey Cancer Center, please call 859-323-2798 and ask to speak with a registered dietitian

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