The white linen covered table is spread with all the beloved foods from childhood. Memories of eating Sunday dinner at Big Mama’s house flood the brain. The undeniably enticing aroma of fried chicken, collards, cornbread, candied sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and sweet potato pie flood the nose.
Sit down let’s eat, the hostess demands. She showcases the traditional soul food dinner prepared with lots of pride and love. Many African Americans raised in the south enjoy soul food on a regular basis. While the foods do taste good, soul food can be loaded with fat, salt, cholesterol and starchy carbs. These negative elements constantly put the participant in the soul food fare at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
It is possible to still enjoy soul food without cutting it completely out of the diet. The secret is in the way these favorites are cooked.
Fried chicken is traditionally highly seasoned, breaded in white flour and fried in animal fat or other saturated oils. A better choice would be to skin the chicken and bake it. For those who still demand fried chicken, try breading it with seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs and frying it in the oven or on top of the stove in canola oil for great taste and less saturated fat.
Collards are traditionally prepared with bacon, ham hock or some other cut of pork, lots of pork fat and salt. A better choice would be collards that are prepared with smoked turkey legs. Hold the salt. This reduces the fat and cholesterol.
Candied sweet potatoes are traditionally sliced sweet potatoes with lots of sugar or corn syrup and fat added. A better choice is to bake a sweet potato and serve it with a little butter. Or slice the potatoes into rounds and bake them on a cookie sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Either of the two alternative cooking methods would eliminate the extra sugar and fat.
Cornbread uses cornmeal, eggs, fat and milk. Try using farina (Cream of Wheat) instead of cornmeal to make cornbread next time. The taste and texture is about the same. Also, cut down on the fat and use fat free milk.
Cornbread dressing consists of cornbread and high sodium cream soups and broths. Use the cornbread made with farina above and add low sodium broths and cream soups.
Traditional potato salad is made with mayonnaise and russet potatoes. Try it using baby red potatoes, low fat mayonnaise or Kraft’s Mayo with Olive Oil for less cholesterol, fat and starch.
Traditional macaroni and cheese is made with white macaroni shells, evaporated milk or whipping cream and a variety of regular cheeses. A more healthful choice would be to use whole grain macaroni shells, nonfat milk and reduced fat cheeses for the same great taste and less fat, cholesterol and starch..
Most soul food dinner combinations are carbohydrate dense. This one is no exception. The collards are the only green vegetable on the table. Even when peas and beans are added to the soul food menu, they are considered starchy vegetables. Okra is a good addition to the soul food menu. Serve it boiled, not breaded or fried.
What would a soul food meal on a Sunday afternoon be without a slice of potato pie or a piece of Red Velvet Cake. Both desserts are made with lots of sugar, fat, eggs and spices. If the soul food platter has been toned down from its traditional high fat, high sodium, high cholesterol status, there’s no reason why a small slice of pie OR cake should not be enjoyed as is.
Even a menu of soul food dishes that have been cooked with healthier ingredients should be enjoyed in moderation: it still adds lots of calories.