It’s Christmas time, and for most Americans that means putting off the gym and dieting until next year and saying hello to all that “bad” stuff that tastes so good.
For African Americans, it means piling on heaping plates of soul food—the more the better. It means macaroni and cheese drenched in butter, fried chicken, greens cooked with pork, over sweetened pies and cakes, salty mashed potatoes and gravy. Soul food, cooked in true African American style, is high in fat, sodium, sugar and cholesterol.
By now, it is well documented that this type of eating leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and some cancers—all chronic diseases in which risk factors for blacks are the highest.
Now, with Christmas upon us, I don’t have the heart to tell you to throw out your family recipes (not that you would anyway). But knowing the risks they may pose to your health, I want to offer a few healthy alternatives.
The key is in the cooking! It’s not the turkey with cornbread dressing, potato salad or black-eyed peas, but the way they are prepared. We murder the nutritional benefits when we cook green beans until they are limp, and add tons of butter, salt, sugar and oil for flavor.
So, this holiday season, I challenge you to revise your family recipes by swapping them out with healthy alternatives. For instance, substitute ham hock with smoked turkey or gourmet chicken sausage. Try Stevia or Splenda instead of sugar (Equal and Nutrasweet have been linked to cancer). Try roasting, steaming and sautéing instead of deep frying .
If you need more ideas, the Internet is full of them. Most cooking sites like FoodNetwork.com offer healthier versions of soul food. Look for recipes by African American chefs like the Neelys or Sunny Anderson. The American Dietetic Association and American Diabetes Association are also great sources of nutritious recipes that you can use all year ’round.