If you’re thinking of ham and hush puppies, you’re way off the track! Your classic plate of down-home food may have been made over with heart in mind but has it ever occurred to you that from brunch to dessert, from your favorite chicken and waffles to best tasting sweet potato pie, all rank fairly high in fat and salt, low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains- and may not be your best option for a hearty, filling and guilt free way to eat!
Even if nothing is more satisfying for you than a plate of home spun food!
Mouthwatering and easy-to-make home spun soul foods surely have the zing to fill and warm your soul but also have some major influences over your health and wellness… and a piece of history as well!
A bizarre fusion of cuisines from across the globe had begun to take shape as early as 1960, more because people had begun to resent the food of late 50’s and thought of it only as fill belly-sustain energy staple…no more. Casting aside these borderline bland and undesirable foods; soul foods began to delight the gourmet senses more as a pursuit of savoriness and creativity than an attempt at healthy lifestyle or wellness. This culinary heritage of foods and traditions however couldn’t become common until the early 1960s. Dreamed up by the civil rights activist Amiri Baraka as early as 1962, soul foods found their first space on a foodie’s platter only when Sylvia Woods “the queen of soul food” opened her first Harlem restaurant the same year. Delightfully savory and scrumptious, soul foods then began to freely storm the kitchens and cookbooks and would continue to stay popular all through the 70’s.
Today fresh and healthful revisions have been reworked over and over again into some very intense, well prep guilt free eats, all meant to warm your heart without adding a hairbreadth to your belly or annoying your health sensibilities!
Don’t miss! Eight surprising reasons for not losing out
Soul food is essentially a basic down-home cooking of staples like beans, greens, cornmeal, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, slow cooked collard greens and rice etc. Sweet cold drinks are always a favorite side. Today a more subtle version of this cuisine no longer favors capsicum pepper heat, a heavier hand with salt and pepper or a greater use of offal protein! Healthy soul food classics like Okra-Tomato stew, creamy potato salad, roasted chicken, sautéed kale -sweet potato, maple glazed salmon, banana pudding are regaling the diners now. From lazy weekend dinners to crazy everyday rush hour eats, baked or fried chicken, greens, corn bread slathered with macaroni and cheese grain-based sides such as black-eyed peas, rice and stewed cabbage…well, you have so much on call to pick! But I guess… choices have traded winds to a healthier genre and now have become a great way to tap into the power of Soul Foods.
Here are a few luscious mouthwatering healthier delights all built upon family favorites that might tempt you enough to give them a try;
Smoky kale sauté
A quick vegan version of traditional soul food that uses kale instead of collards, this wholesome food makes for a great side of your main protein source- roasted chicken or grilled tofu. Steamed and then shocked with cold water, kale retains its lustrous inviting green color. Add a pinch of smoked paprika and you wouldn’t miss the smoky taste of the your usual ham hock!
Maple glazed salmon
Low in fat and high in protein, this incredibly simple and healthy food is a perfect choice for one of those nights when you don’t have much time to get dinner on the table. Deliciously sweet and savory, the salmon combines wonderfully with fresh garlic, ground ginger and a touch of soy sauce as marinade. Giving a perfect balance to an easy flavorful dish, the sweet maple syrup adds a unique complexity that cannot be replicated. Also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, this lean protein comes packed with healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory effects and help improve heart health.
Made with lean meat, this easy to prep soul food is fantastically cheesy and healthy! Low in carbs this guilt free food is definitely not boring, bland or traditional. Moist and loaded with tons of flavors, it will change the way you feel about meatloaf! Honestly experiencing the burst of flavors in each bite from the melted parmesan cheese, deliciously tender onions and all the seasonings in between is simply divine!
BBQ chicken sandwich with broccoli slaw
Low in calories and fat and having a high nutritional value, BBQ chicken is a great source of protein. Enough of this nutrient helps to maintain muscle mass and support a healthy metabolism. No wonder why chicken follows us from infancy to adulthood!
Tangy barbecue sauce, shredded chicken, and toasty bun piled high and all crunchy with veggie seasoning, these sandwiches carry a nice tang and unforgettable flavors. Pair this good source of niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus with your favorite pickle slaw and you might spin-off a family dinner win!
Curried green beans
Simple, delicious and filling, this green bean curry served on its own or over steamed rice or coconut roti or warm naan bread, tastes divine and goes very well as a vegetarian entrée or alone as a side dish. Using green beans, peas, carrots and potatoes and sautéed with a precooked curry paste, this faintly spiced, roasted cashew garnished dish is one happy healthy food that you just cannot have enough of to satisfy your soul.
Easy, crispy, tender and moist with added flavor of buttermilk and brown sugar, this dough-based corn bread boasts of tight crumb grains, golden crumb color and a unique aroma and sweetness that remind me of the texture and flavors of a muffin. Free of preservatives and synthetic stabilizers this flexible and delightful food comes packed with 20 amino acids; nine of them-histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine being the most essential ones, those which the body cannot synthesize and must be obtained from food. Essentially looked upon as ‘quick bread’ it can be made into pancakes, casseroles and much more!
Vegan Cheese Grits
Vegan cheese grits with creamy beans and collards make for a perfect comforting hardy meal to fill you up. Grits are super versatile, vegan and there are so many unique ways you can have them. Eat them on their own, make polenta cakes and chips and casseroles or into mini pancakes, faintly resembling tacos! You could try serving with BBQ tofu and greens for an amazing food experience. Apart from adding protein and healthy vegan goodness to your food, what is even greater about this eat is that you can spice it up by adding pico, avocado and fresh cabbage slaw for a Mexican twist. What with succulent sautéed greens enriched with garlic and smoky flavors, lying atop a bed of thick, creamy grits…well the possibilities are endless, so get creative!
If you’re looking for a dessert that tastes delicious and delivers brain-nourishing vitamins, this one is just the right choice for you.
With tantalizing layers of pudding, ripe bananas, whipped cream, wafer cookies and of course-a dollop of whipped cream that never hurts much, this food makes for a classic dessert that you can never get enough of. Making for a perfect dessert it makes even the most die-hard fitness freaks going back for more. With easy to get ingredients, you can whip up nutritionally a ‘lot-to-offer’ treat that literally helps your nerves function properly, regulate water levels in your body and offset the effects of sodium.
In case you didn’t know bananas are bursting with B vitamins and electrolytes like potassium and a single serve of this pudding carries about 122 mg of potassium!
The one great thing about these healthier options that always amuses me is that nobody ever walks away from their plate unsatisfied. From braised collard greens to stewed black-eyed peas and other protein sources all generally involve healthier cooking techniques like braising, steaming, grilling, and boiling and are considered healthful. So the next time you host Sunday dinner, try creating a menu around more nutrient dense soul food dishes or maybe you could attempt getting creative with some healthy swaps.
All in all, a run for a ‘go-to’ healthy soul food meal; all extremely tender, flavorful and without a ton of work on your part, could just be the right kind of inspiration for a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing. Best part is that you can still honor tradition by pitching-in ingredients for most of them shelve our kitchens even today. All you’d need to do is swap butter for heart-healthy oils like olive, peanut, or canola oils; replace high sodium, high-fat meats with smoked, skinless ones or even expand your food by trading meat for legumes, nuts or seeds as your protein source. Believe me, creating healthy soul foods would be a lot easier than it seems.
Just be mindful of intake of things for at the heart of a soul food lie rich flavors, nutrition and piece of legacy!