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Healthy Swaps for Traditional Recipes

Healthy Swaps for Traditional Recipes

by Jody Long, MS, RDN, CDCES
Diabetes Educator and Dietitian

I was schooled in soul food by Ms. Alice at a care facility in south Texas. I walked in as a new food service director, a girl from the Midwest not familiar with southern cooking. Ms. Alice had been a facility fixture for years, cooking breakfasts and lunches for the residents. They loved her cooking. It was soul food at its finest: tasty, comfortable, and traditional, but straying far from the company menus and recipes.

I was determined to stick with the company recipes, and she was set on not compromising her cooking. We were at an impasse. I started coming to the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning, and side by side, we would pick and prepare menu items for comparison purposes. We both learned a lot. I learned that some foods were best left alone to traditional preparation methods, and she learned that some foods were just as tasty in a healthier version (i.e. my menu-compliant recipe).

These days, as I consult with patients on nutrition and healthy eating, I make it a point to honor culture and tradition. I encourage them to look back at their ancestors’ cooking, since modern-day versions of traditional cuisines are often commercialized and altered to include higher amounts of fat, sodium, and calories. Below, I have provided several resources that offer some healthy food swaps for soul food cuisine. Check out Malinda Russell’s cookbook, hailed as the first printed African American cookbook and written in 1866!

Diabetes Food Hub – once you’ve created your FREE account, check out the ADA’s healthy spin on Southern Ethnic Cuisine

Oldways African Heritage Food Swaps

Black History Month food for your body and soul

Malinda Russell's "Domestic Cookbook"

I share this story in honor of Ms. Alice during Black History Month and her family connections to soul food.

Remember, the Nutrition Squad at Mary Washington Healthcare Outpatient Diabetes and Nutrition Counseling Services takes culture and beliefs into consideration. We’ll work with you to meet your health and nutritional needs.