Roniece Weaver & Fabiola Gaines

According to the cookbook Healthy Soul Food Cooking by best-selling authors Roniece Weaver and Fabiola Gaines, Soul Food is a style of cooking that originated during American slavery. It is a common term used for ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans. African slaves were gardeners and cooks of the Southern plantations and once freed, migrated north and west to work as chuck wagon cooks, railroad chefs, nightclub hosts and restaurant owners.

New geographical influences were integrated with old cooking traditions and evolving flavor combinations. Soul Food cooking represented the best melding of old and new. Weaver and Gaines are certified dietitians and founders of Hebni Nutrition Consultants in Orlando, Florida. Their passion for nutrition education has allowed them to write five cookbooks published by the American Diabetes Association. Their Soul Food Pyramid assists African Americans, and all Americans, to cook healthier soul food without losing traditional flavor.

“Historically, African American diets were predominantly vegetarian. Foods were boiled, fried, roasted or baked. Stews and thick gumbos, the liberal use of molasses and fat-laden gravies provided calories,” explains Weaver. “African Americans used salt and sweeteners in abundance without suffering any ill health because of the countless hours spent in hard manual labor.”

“Today, the strong tradition of soul food in the African American community is taking its toll on the health of African Americans. The liberal use of salt and sweeteners in traditionally prepared soul food is killing African Americans,” states Gaines. “We believe that much of the hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases plaguing African Americans can be avoided by making simple modifications in diets, meal planning and cooking styles.”

• Collard Greens - Usually cooked with ham hock and often combined with other greens
• Catfish - Usually dredged in cornbread and fried.
• Chicken - Often fried with cornmeal breading or seasoned flour
• Cornbread - Often baked in an iron skillet, sometimes seasoned with bacon fat and chicken-fried or beef deep-fried in flour or batter. Usually served with gravy.

• Collard Greens - Prepare them without using meat or use low-sodium bouillon or smoked turkey necks for flavoring. Use other herbs and flavorings that complement your recipe instead of fat.
• Catfish - Panfry, grill or smoke catfish instead of frying.
• Chicken - Oven fry (i.e. bake chicken at high temperature to achieve the same crispy texture.)
• Cornbread - prepare with light (1%) sour cream or nonfat milk.

RECIPES Click to go to the recipes section

Cookbooks by Roniece Weaver and Fabiola Gaines:
• Healthy Soul Food Cooking
• The Family Style Soul Food Diabetes Cookbook (co-authored by Rojean Williams and Chef Shawn Fralin)
• The New Soul Food Cookbook For People with Diabetes (1st and 2nd Editions)
• Month-a-Meals: Soul Food Creations
• Slim Down Sister