Healthy Soul Food

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You love Southern cooking, but not the fat and calories. Learn to enjoy your favorite soul foods without worrying about your weight and your health.

Smothered greens, corn bread, ribs, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and fried chicken. Welcome to delicious, down-home soul food!

Traditional Southern or soul food is not especially healthy, though. Fried foods are made mostly with hydrogenated oil or lard, and they tend to be flavored and seasoned with fatty pork products. Though many basic ingredients - rice, beans, greens and yams - are all healthy, preparation methods often involve lots of fat order filitra, sodium and calories.

It's no secret that what you eat can raise - or lower - your risk for chronic disease. Further, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are the leading causes of death for African Americans. These are all medical problems that can start with an unhealthy diet.

A dietary makeover
The good news is that you can prepare dishes in healthier ways and still enjoy great soul food! Here's how:

Use smoked turkey breast instead of fatback. Fatback is a cut of pork fat, typically taken off the back of a pig. Used to flavor dishes from beans to greens, it is very high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Use a small piece of skinless smoked turkey breast instead of fatback. It will still have flavor and be kinder to your arteries.

Lose the lard. Lard is made from fatback. It is rich in artery-clogging saturated fat.

  • Instead, fry or lightly sauté with a vegetable oil like canola or olive oil.
  • Also try stretching your cooking oils with low-sodium chicken broth. Broth provides flavor without any added fat.

Cut back on salt. Excess sodium may be a risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease.

  • Wait until you've tasted your food before you salt it. If you must use salt, use a low-sodium salt or sea salt. Sea salt is a higher quality salt, so you'll need less of it.
  • Try using lots of herbs and spices. Onion and garlic powder, fresh garlic, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and vinegar can go a long way in flavoring dishes. And they're all sodium-free.

Substitute ground turkey and turkey sausage for dishes using fatty ground beef and pork sausage.

  • Turkey is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories.
  • Use less meat overall and increase the vegetable portion of the dish.

Broil, roast and bake meat, chicken and fish instead of frying them.

  • Use whole-wheat bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes for coating. Stay away from enriched flours.
  • Don't forget to take the skin off the chicken, and use lean cuts of pork.
  • Cut off the extra fat from meat before you cook it.

Use fresh vegetables instead of canned. Canned vegetables can have preservatives and are usually higher in sodium.

  • Fresh vegetables are richer in vitamins than canned. If you have to use canned vegetables, look for labels that say "low-sodium." And make sure there is no added sugar.
  • Another good option is to buy salt-free frozen vegetables.

Use a healthier mayonnaise, like canola mayo or light mayo,for potato salads, cole slaws and other mayonnaise-based salads.

  • This will lower the calories, cholesterol and fat in your dishes.
  • You can also stretch your mayo with a small amount of plain yogurt.

Choose low-fat dairy products, like low fat cheese, low-fat milk and buttermilk, and soft tub margarines.

These work wonders in dishes like macaroni and cheese, bread puddings, sweet potato dishes, corn bread and biscuits.