For many, soul food is rightfully associated with family, tradition, and warm memories of home. While the deep and delicious flavors taste great, some of the quintessential soul food dishes like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and greens have reputations for being less-than-healthy. Fortunately, if you take away the traditional preparation with excess salt, fat, and sugar and you’re left with a relatively healthy diet. If you love soul food but want to lower your risk for heart disease, try implementing the following variations to your favorite soul food dishes.

Vegetables Are King

Vegetables are the cornerstone of any nutritious meal. When it comes to soul food there are numerous options like cabbage, collard greens, peas, beans, okra, sweet potatoes, and more to fill up on instead of more of the higher calorie choices. Cover your plate with veggies for incredible nutrition and to naturally lower the total calories in the meal.  

Skip the Deep Fryer

Instead of traditional batter, cover your fish in crushed nuts then bake it for a delectable crisp. As an alternative to deep-frying your chicken, marinate it in citrus to create incredible flavor. Pan-seared chicken with lemon and rosemary or orange and thyme can be just as flavorful as your typical fried chicken. 

Substitute a spicy okra and tomato stew instead of the standard fried okra side dish. You can also lighten up macaroni and cheese and get an almost undetectable boost by adding pureed butternut squash or cauliflower to the mix. 

Minimize the Meat

Ham hocks, chitlins, and chicken are ubiquitous in soul food recipes. For a healthier overall meal, incorporate substantially smaller meat portions. These small pieces of meat can go a long way in flavoring. You can also use these morsels to flavor greens or other foods traditionally made with a smoky flavor.

Fruit for Dessert

It may sound sacrilegious but if you really want to heighten the nutritious value of your soul food experience, skip the double-crusted cobblers and pies for dessert. Instead, try baked peaches or blueberries with maple syrup and cinnamon topped with oats and nuts. Add sliced strawberries or bananas for extra flavor.


Sometimes you may feel inclined to go full-bore and eat the fried chicken and slathered ham. That’s okay too! There’s no reason to completely abolish the foods you enjoy the most. The key is to employ moderation and balance to your choices so you can enhance your health. Soul food is made with love, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad for your heart. Has this blog piqued your appetite? Visit Mama Sheila’s House of Soul for the best in soul food today!