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Can Southern Food Be Healthy?

Southern food gets a bad rap sometimes due to its emphasis on frying, gravy and bacon. The origins of Southern food are actually much simpler and healthier, with a focus on vegetables and ingredients that were readily available from the garden or sea. While no Southerner (and most Northerners) would turn down a plate of fried chicken or biscuits and gravy, many home cooks and chefs have found ways to lighten up this classic cuisine without sacrificing flavor.

A bit of discipline can go a long way, and every family and home cook has their own very familiar diet plan’s review. It’s no secret that the U.S. is suffering from an obesity crisis, but it shouldn’t be difficult for Southern cooks to get back to their roots if they think about how the food evolved. For example, greens are one of the healthiest dishes around and a staple of Southern cooking. Meat and salt were historically used to preserve the greens, but that’s not the only way to flavor them.

A Healthier Way to Enjoy Southern Cuisine

Those who love Southern cuisine or have been looking forward to trying it need not worry. A few small changes can make all the difference to your waistline. For example, one of the simplest of Southern dishes is the tomato sandwich. Much of its flavor lies in the mayonnaise coating the bread—most Southerners choose Duke’s brand—but you can make your own with olive oil for added health benefits. The choice of bread is your typical white bread, but going for wheat bread makes for a healthier option.

When it comes to classic Southern fried chicken, instead of deep-frying the chicken in traditional peanut oil, you could instead opt for the oven or air fry your chicken. Since the star of the show is the seasoning and the breading, you can even remove the skin, which can cut the calorie intake by a surprising amount.

Healthy Southern cuisine doesn’t have to take a backseat to flavor. By understanding how to make key changes in this beloved way of cooking, you can have a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying your comfort food.

For more ideas, check out cookbooks like Southern Keto, Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table, Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry and Lighten Up, Y’all by Virginia Willis.

Virginia Willis photo by Angie Mosier. 

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  • Kelly Powers / October 28, 2020

    I really love and appreciate the simple swaps you suggest. We don’t have to demonize or completely cut foods out! It’s important to honor the heritage and find solutions that allow us to eat well at all times. Thanks for this!