Cranberry Turkey Chili

Happy day-after-Black Friday, readers and family!

Just kidding, I don’t celebrate Black Friday because I don’t believe in it, BUT I do want to wish you guys a happy belated Thanksgiving and beginning to the holiday season. I have decided that this year my goal is to be a little bit more Christmas-spirited. My mom was the queen of Christmas growing up, and even though I got her great hair, some of her cooking skills, and her sense of humor, her natural obsession with Christmas was just not one of the things I inherited. But I want it. So this year is my attempt to go for it.

Speaking of the holiday season, I know this time of year I get a lot of questions about nutritional challenges like the Whole30 and 21-Day Sugar Detox (probably because I’ve done several rounds of both and have written about my experiences here on my blog). I haven’t completed a Whole30 challenge since 2014, and I honestly don’t think I will ever do one again. But I also wouldn’t just tell everyone to never consider a challenge like this in their life. So I decided to write out a post on my thoughts on the Whole30 challenge- raw, unfiltered, and honest.

I also decided to start this Rory Gilmore-style and make a PRO/CON list for you.

PROS of the Whole30 challenge:

  • Challenges you to think about what you’re eating and learn about the reality of the food industry
  • Makes you tune in to how certain foods make you feel and affect your mood, sleep, digestion, etc.
  • Re-introducing foods after Whole30 can help you identify food sensitivities that you didn’t know you had
  • You realize you CAN say no to certain foods and have control over what you eat instead of letting food control you
  • Learn self-control and discipline
  • Develop more of a love/appreciation for whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, etc. over processed foods
  • The challenge can really help jump start weight loss
  • Can help non-scale goals like get rid of acne, have more energy, fit into clothes better, do better at your workouts, etc.

CONS of the Whole30 challenge-

  • Can easily place a mentality of “bad” versus “good” foods in our minds, which could lead to serious food fears and orthorexic tendencies
  • It is not a sustainable, realistic way to live and eat (hello life and parties and enjoying people!!)
  • In my opinion, the biggest con is the cyclical affect Whole30 has on people– you do the entire challenge thinking about all the foods you crave and want to eat after the 30 days are over…so that once it’s over, you go on a 3-day complete binge on said foods (ice cream, cookies, cake, bread, pasta. etc.), feel awful and ashamed of yourself for eating so many “bad” foods, and re-start your Whole30 the following Monday…and the cycle continues.
  • Your body is not the same as your friend who eats perfectly paleo and has lost 100 lbs and looks lean and awesome…so you may actually find that you gain weight or start to develop other weird side affects rather than have any good outcomes.
  • Whole30 is naturally low-carb so most people (athletes or people who work out a lot) end up getting under-carbed.
  • Whole30 posts on social media & blogs can make you feel shameful or not good enough in your own diet rather than inspired to live and eat healthier.

There are the pros and cons (at least the major ones) that I’ve noticed through my own experience and through the experiences others have had doing Whole30.  I think a Whole30 could be a great thing, or a trapping thing. I also think doing too many over and over is a sneaky way to hide disordered eating habits and thinking.  Take each with a grain of salt and decide for yourself. To end, I’m leaving you with my list of THINGS ONE SHOULD CONSIDER BEFORE DOING A WHOLE30:

  • Have you ever struggled with an eating disorder? If so, I don’t know if something as restrictive as Whole30 would be good waters to tread in…It’s easy to fall into disordered eating mindsets again.
  • YOU DO YOU. Know the big rocks that you need to work on (you eat a lot of sugar, you need more protein, etc.) and make those your goals for the Whole30, not adhering to strict guidelines and standards that you don’t really understand. Diet is not black and white, so keep in mind that what works for someone may not work for you…and that is completely okay!
  • Consider events and special occasions that will be happening during your Whole30. Do you really think it’s worth it to be on a restrictive diet during your best friend’s wedding weekend? Maybe save it for a different time and be realistic with yourself.
  • Start small…it’s okay to do a Whole7 and try it for a week, then move up from there.
  • Don’t focus so much on what you will indulge in after the Whole30 is over…that will completely ruin the experience for you and defeats the purpose of a Whole30. You will feel awful and any victories you had during the challenge will go out the window. Pace yourself post-Whole30 and set some guidelines for reintroducing yourself back into normal life.
  • Accountability is key. Have someone there for you when making healthy choices is hard but also when your mindset is out of whack and you start to view food in the wrong way. In both extremes you need someone from the outside to help you find balance.

All that to say– I don’t believe doing the Whole30 is bad. Not at all!! I honestly believe that doing the Whole30 changed my life for the better by helping me fall in love with vegetables and become more creative in the kitchen. So it is NOT bad! If you are doing one right now, continue and enjoy it and learn the heck out of it. I just think there is a fine line between challenging ourselves healthily and unhealthily…and that line is different for everyone. So figure out where that line is for you!

Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with turkey chili?? Turkey burgers and turkey chili. This is why- they are easy and you can use virtually anything you already have on hand to make it happen! This particular chili would be awesome to make with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce. Even if you don’t have leftovers, you can make it with fresh ingredients. I love the flavor combinations in this chili– a little bit of sweet and tangy from the cranberries, and then some deep rich flavors from the sage & turkey. Yum!! Try it out and let me know what you think!

Photo Nov 21, 12 01 57 PM

Cranberry Turkey Chili
Makes about 5-6 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, whole
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1- 1.25 lb lean turkey (or leftover turkey breast from Thanksgiving)
  • 1 tbsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 cup brussel sprouts, chopped or shaved
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 15oz can tomato puree
  • 1 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, whole
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add cranberries, 1/2 cup water, juice and zest from half of the orange (save the other half) and mix well. Bring to a boil. Once most of the berries have popped, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 8-10 minutes. **IF you have leftover chunky cranberry sauce, skip this step and just pull out the cranberry sauce.
  2. While berries simmer, add some olive oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Once heated up, add onions and mix/cook until nearly translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add minced garlic, and mix a little more. Add the turkey to the pan. If ground turkey, break up and cook until almost cooked all the way through but still a tad bit pink. If adding leftover turkey breast, just break up in the pan and mix/cook until heated up.
  3. Add plenty of salt, pepper, the ground sage and ginger to the pot and mix until all seasonings are evenly distributed.
  4. Add in sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, spinach to the meat and onion mixture, then pour in tomato puree, tomato paste, chicken broth, the entire cranberry mix from the other pot (including the liquid), and apple sauce. Add remaining juice and zest from the other half of the orange, Mix until everything is smooth and well incorporated.
  5. Add a tad more salt and pepper, mix, then place the cinnamon sticks and bay leaf on top of the chili. Increase heat and bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 45-55 minutes. Let cool, remove cinnamon sticks & bay leaf, and serve!

Photo Nov 21, 12 02 04 PM

Be inspired,



One thought on “Cranberry Turkey Chili

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