The Soul Food Makeover

Posted By ,January 3, 2012

ThinkstockPhotos-121216525“Soul Food” is a term used for the type of ethnic cuisine that is traditionally prepared by African Americans. Many say this style of cooking originated during the slavery period. During slavery, people were given leftovers and undesirable parts of animals, which they then had no choice but to convert into flavorful meals.

Many years later, some are still consuming some of the same traditional foods, even though they are higher in fat, sodium and sugar. It’s well known that Blacks need to overhaul their diet — or face the continued, ever-increasing health risks, particularly diabetes and poor heart health.

Trust me – you can still enjoy traditional cultural favorites. But you need to limit the frequency, monitor the portion sizes and change the way it is prepared.  To demonstrate my point, I have taken a traditional soul food meal and created a lighter version.

The Soul Food Makeover

The Traditional Soul Food Meal

• Fried Chicken
• Collard Greens with Ham Hock
• Macaroni and Cheese
• Cornbread
• Soda Pop

Nutritional Facts: 1064 calories, 84% daily value (DV) of fat, 51% DV of cholesterol and 117% DV of sodium

The Lighter (But Still Flavorful) Soul Food Meal

• Blackened Tilapia
• Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey
• Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Wheat Roll
• Sweetened Ice Tea

Nutritional Facts: 420 calories, 5% DV of fat, 20% DV of cholesterol and 30% DV of sodium

Soul Food Makeover: The Recipes

Blackened Tilapia

Prep Time:1 Minutes
Cook time:1 Minutes
Total Time:10 minutes

– 1 pound Tilapia fillets (4 ounces a piece)
– 2 teaspoons blackening seasoning mixture:
– 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
– 1 tablespoon onion powder
– 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1 teaspoon dried basil
– 2 teaspoons canola oil
– 1 tablespoon garlic powder
– 1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
– 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon dried (oregano)


1. Preheat skillet to high and add canola oil.
2. Rub Tilapia on both sides with blackening seasoning. Sauté until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time:1 Minutes
Cook time:1 Minutes
Total Time:20 minutes

• 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 1/2 cup non-fat sour cream
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar


1. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook 10-15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
3. Drain and place potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
4. Mash with sour cream, butter, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar.
5. Serving size should be ½ cup.

Collard Greens

Prep Time:1 Minutes
Cook time:1 Minutes
Total Time:75 minutes

• smoked turkey necks
• 3 cans fat free chicken broth
• 1 small red onion diced
• 2 clove garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 2 – 3 bunches of collard greens
• salt and pepper to taste
• crushed red pepper flakes or Jalapenos (optional)


1. Rinse collard greens in the sink under running cold water.
2. Pick greens away from the stem.
3. Stack collard greens into several leaves on top of each other.
4. Using a cutting board and knife, roll the leaves together and cut collard green leaves into 1 inch thick strips.
5. In a large pot, sauté diced red onion, garlic and olive oil.
6. Add equal amounts of water and chicken broth to large pot.
7. Add greens to pot, bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer.
8. Cover with lid and continue to simmer for 1 hour.
9. In a small pot boil turkey necks over medium-high heat until tender. Once turkey parts are tender, rinse and transfer to the pot containing your collard greens.
10. Once greens are tender, add salt and pepper to taste.
11. Add red pepper flakes or Jalapenos if you want a little heat.

Nutrition Information:

By Chef Eric Paul, BDO Nutrition Expert

Chef Eric Paul is Executive Chef and creator of Alter EatGo, which is a healthy ready-to-eat meal service that provides portion controlled and calorie conscious ethnic cuisine to the Chicago metropolitan area.  In addition to running a successful healthy meal delivery service, this up and coming celebrity chef has made numerous appearances on TV and radio and currently blogs about healthy eating topics for the Chicago Tribune. Because he is so passionate about changing the eating habits of at risk populations, he works with organizations such as the AARP, March of Dimes, 100 Black Men of Chicago and YMCA to educate the community about proper nutrition. Chef Eric received his formal culinary training at the Illinois Institute of Art. Currently, he is pursuing his Masters in Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and personal trainer certification. To find out more about Chef Eric Paul and Alter EatGo, please visit