2023 calls for a rewiring of the mind when it comes to eating healthy. Gone are the days when we can only eat certain foods and say goodbye to our ethnic food favorites to achieve our weight loss goals and live a healthier lifestyle. A number of Black dieticians and nutritionists have made it their mission to show others, particularly Black and brown people, that you can still eat your cherished traditional foods and be healthy.
Under her practice, The Lifestyle Dietician LLC, registered dietician nutritionist Jerlyn Jones dispels these food myths as well as helps clients with food intolerances, weight loss, heart health, and many more.
“We can always eat our beloved foods. What you can do is just monitor your portion sizes of what you enjoy eating,” Jerlyn explains. “Also there’s definitely different swaps you can do, which I think we’ve all learned over the years. If you know something is higher in fat and salt and sugar, then there’s always alternatives to replace it and still not lose the flavor [because] that’s really what it’s all about. You still want to be able to eat and have a lot of flavor to it.”
For example, instead of putting salt or everything, you can use salt-free spices that are just as flavorful. Many Black voices who have been advocates for healthy eating in our community, such as Tabitha Brown, have spoken about the need to limit the use of salt and sugar in our foods. According to a study from Harvard University, too much salt, which is sodium, in our diet can put you at risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and more.
But if you’re still wondering if you can eat candied yams and collard greens, there’s some good news. “Our ancestral foods are deemed healthy overall. So when you bring over foods that came from the African diaspora, those are healthy foods,” she says.
“We’re talking about beans, we’re talking about okra, we’re talking about vegetables. Overall, it’s healthy. It’s just that if you’re preparing it in a way where you know, yeah I think this might lead to high blood pressure, eventually maybe high cholesterol levels then it’s about, we can still eat this but let’s find out how we can maybe decrease certain ingredients so we can still enjoy our foods. Still enjoy it without impacting our health in the long-term.”
To illustrate how your portion sizes should look, the American Institute of Health created the My Healthy Plate. The plates cover all types of cultural backgrounds including Black Americans with the Healthy Soul Food Plate. “It’s the same idea, same tool meaning you eat from a nine each plate, half of your plate is gonna be full of different vegetables and on this plate, it shows you a photo of collard greens and then a quarter of your plate is [a] carbohydrate. They show you a photo of macaroni and cheese, and then a quarter of your plate is protein, and it's baked chicken.”
Thanks to these tips, losing weight while enjoying your food is possible. But at the end of the day, Jerlyn wants those whose goal is to lose weight to remember their "why," make logical steps toward that goal, and have an accountability partner.
"Always find out your 'why.' You have to figure out why are you doing this. Why is losing weight one of your New Year’s resolutions or [goals] for you? Once you figure out what that is, I think you’ll probably be more apt and of course, you have to have a smart goal," she says. "So you can’t say, ‘I want to lose weight. I want to lose weight by June, before summer.' That is so random. Nothing holds you accountable. Where’s your support? If this is something new you’re embarking on you’re going to need more specifics than that.”
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Feature image courtesy of Jerlyn Jones