If there’s one thing the south is known for, it’s soul food. Just thinking about popular staples like fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, candied yams, and cornbread is enough to make your mouth water. Ideal for an early Sunday dinner or a Thanksgiving gathering, these stick to your bones dishes sends flavorful jolts through your tastebuds. As delicious as this sounds and tastes, most traditional soul food dishes aren’t the best for your health.
Known for its high content in bad cholesterol, fat, salt, and sugar, soul food can quickly lead to life-threatening conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Realizing the harm it was causing; culinary experts took to the kitchen to develop solutions that reduce health risks without compromising taste.
If you’ve been longing to prepare some of your favorite soul food recipes at home, here are some solutions to make them better for you.
Be Gentle With the Salt
A lot of traditional soul foods are high in salt content. Since many of the ingredients already contain sodium, you can minimize the amount of table or sea salt you use to season meats, veggies, broths, and gravies. When shopping, you should also look for products that advertise lower amounts of sodium.
From fried or smothered pork chops and ham to pig feat and ham hocks to add flavor to beans and veggies, you’ll find that pork is commonly used to prepare southern dishes. If you want to cut down on fat and salt content in your meals, you should consider using other meat. Turkey is a healthier option that tastes just as delicious.
Change Your Cooking Methods
Many people enjoy fried chicken, fish, pork chops, or shrimp, but fried food consistently is terrible for your heart. It is better to invest in quality cookware that allows you to bake or pan sear your favorite poultry and seafood without the saturated fat. If you’re on a tight budget, brands like MadeIn offer quality cookware for your kitchen without the hefty price tag.
Swap Whole for Low-Fat Dairy
Some soul food recipes call for you to use lots of cheese, creamer, and milk to prepare. If you’re trying to steer clear of all those extra calories, you would be wise to shop for low-fat options. Incorporating low-fat cheese, milk, or creamer into your dishes doesn’t impact the taste but reduces fat, salt, and cholesterol in each meal. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or have other special dietary needs, you can also shop for organic vegan options for your recipes.
Find an Alternative Sweetener
Sugar is frequently used for southern sides and desserts. If you have a predisposition for diabetes or simply want to eat healthier at home, it’s best to find an alternative. Instead of using cane sugar, try natural sweeteners like stevia, agave, or organic raw honey. You can also add fruit for a healthier dose of all-natural sugar that won’t aggravate your blood sugar levels.
Serve With Healthy Sides
If you’re looking for a more well-balanced meal, then serve your favorite soul food dishes with healthy sides. For instance, you can opt for steamed vegetables or a side salad. Instead of white rice, you can prepare quinoa, wild, or brown rice. Lastly, use whole-wheat pasta when preparing baked mac and cheese.
The last thing to remember when preparing soul food is portion control. It is not uncommon for families to sit large serving dishes packed with food on the table or fast-food joints like Bojangles’ to fill plates with large portions. It tastes so good that you want to eat until you can’t anymore. The key to avoiding long-term illnesses, however, is to eat in moderation. Ensure that you’re serving ideal portions and try to consume soul food more than once a week.
There’s nothing like a delicious southern-cooked meal to fill your tummy and heal your soul. The only problem is, it’s not good for your body. Fortunately, you no longer have to give up on your favorite soul food dishes. There are many cooking tips and hacks you can use to prepare a southern cuisine without risking your health and wellness.