Healing Our Soul: Healthy Options for Traditional Foods

Let’s face it. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll go through the whole Thanksgiving season without at least one slice of sweet potato pie, or forego the greens and cornbread that make Christmas worth looking forward to. Since deprivation is the enemy to all successful diets, it’s important to know how to prepare the foods you love in a healthier way. Substituting a few ingredients in the dishes your family loves seeing at the table can help with weight control and cut down on sodium intake. Healthier food will also give you more energy to enjoy your family gathering, and to participate in the memories that make these times so worthwhile. After all, one of the purposes of a dinner filled with soul food is to bring loved ones together. Here are some ideas you can try tonight, or at your next celebration.

Lessen the fat in collard greens. It’s traditional to season collard greens with pork, usually the ham hock portion. There are about 370 calories in a serving of smoked ham hock, and about 100 mg of sodium. This is way too many calories for only one small section of dinner. Instead, try smoked turkey leg. There are only 148 calories in smoked turkey leg; the poultry is also rich in potassium and vitamin B12. Or, you can prepare vegetarian collard greens. Soy-based bacon substitute or vegan sausage can be used as a tasty seasoning substitute; low sodium varieties are best. To add more fiber and B vitamins to collard greens, add more veggies like red or yellow bell peppers, or other greens for a slightly spicy flavor, like turnip greens or kale.

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Add more nutrients to cornbread. Lard and shortening are often used to prepare cornbread, the carb offering that goes oh-so-well with collard greens. You can cut this harmful fat out of cornbread and add more nutrients like calcium and selenium by preparing the bread with skim milk, and using egg whites instead of whole eggs. Low-fat sour cream can enhance the texture of cornbread and allow the ingredients to bond properly; this ingredient is high in magnesium as well. For a vegan version of cornbread, you can use mashed bananas or applesauce instead of sour cream. This will make the cornbread slightly sweet—which will go nicely with candied yams. Here’s a great recipe to try.

Reduce the sugar in candied yams. Cut down on all the sugar in candied yams by using raw honey or sugar instead of processed white or brown sugar or marshmallows. You can use less of these ingredients because they are in their natural state and have a more pronounced taste. Adding other sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, anise and licorice will enhance the taste of the yams, and can help to lower blood sugar as well. Citrus flavors like orange and lemon are healthy additions to candied yams as well, and will help to cleanse the palette. Adding nuts like pecans or macadamia nuts will add healthy fats to the side dish, and a reasonable serving of omega 3 fatty acids, which improve brain function. Yams prepared the more “conventional” way could be about 300 calories per serving. If you add your tasty but health seasonings to the yams, your dish will be 40-50 calories less.

Cut the calories in chicken. A serving of fried chicken, skin on, can be more than 400 calories. A piece of broiled or baked chicken is a little more than 200 calories. Enough said. However, to make chicken especially delicious, you can add a blend of barbecue sauce, olive oil, fresh herbs, honey, sea salt and cayenne pepper to chicken before placing it in the oven. Or, if you still want the crispy skin of fried chicken without the calories, roll chicken in truffle oil and panko bread crumbs seasoned with your favorite spices before it goes in the oven.

Try one of more of these recipe adjustments the next time you invite friends and family over for dinner. Chances are someone at the table will ask for the recipe.

Tamiya King is a fashion blogger and alternative health writer. She possess an English degree and has been writing professionally for over a decade. King is also a professional image consultant, and is studying to become a certified health coach to learn new and exciting ways to help women look and feel their best. You can reach her on Twitter (@tamiyafking).

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