Dishin’ on Soul Food: Nutrition Pro Talks Food & Health

27 Jun

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about soul food and health. Some folks have even banished it from their diets. As a soul food enthusiast and one who celebrates the heritage and history of these foods and their contribution to the American menu, I reached out to a health pro for the 411 to set the record straight. I called Michelle Stewart, alias “The Nutrition Planner” to chat about soul food and health.

Michelle Stewart is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.

Michelle Stewart, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator advises people to eat an assortment of colorful foods.

Stewart has more than 20 years’ experience sharing food, health and fitness facts. As a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), she counsels clients to help them lead a well-being lifestyle. In July, Stewart will be sworn in as President-elect of the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.*

ChowChow & Soul: What is your first memory of a soul food dish or recipe?

My first memory of what I consider a soul food dish is collard greens, we had them every Sunday. My Dad was a chef on the Pennsylvania Rail Road and he cooked them in a big pot. He thought the pot likker from the greens was an elixir to cure anything.  Dad would make me drink it for any ailment. I hated it—now I know how beneficial that nutrient–filled pot-likker is.

ChowChow & Soul: Is that something you prepare today?

I do cook mixed greens often. You will usually find collards, mustards, turnips, and kale seasoned with smoked turkey wings in my stockpot.

ChowChow & Soul: When and how did you learn to cook?

I learned to cook at a very early age from Dad. . .I can remember as early as age four helping him out in the kitchen and really cooking around age seven. My favorite show was “The French Chef.”

ChowChow & Soul:  How did that food memory motivate your interest in becoming a dietitian?

Not really sure when it all came together but I was always  interested in food and how food was prepared. I guess I started to look at food as medicine and how it can bring people together.

ChowChow & Soul:  What is the one soul food dish that you think people should know how to make?

It is too hard to choose just one food however I think Black-eyed peas are one of the  powerhouse foods; like most dried beans, these peas are full of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, plus some protein. And they’re good in both hot and cold dishes.

ChowChow & Soul:  Do you think the rap that soul food is unhealthy is fact or fiction?

As with many other cuisines, the method of preparation contributes more to the nutrition profile than the actual foods we traditionally think of as soul food.  Be mindful of portion sizes and make sure you include some type of exercise in your schedule on a regular basis.  My mantra is all things in moderation and get moving!!

Editors Note: Michelle Stewart, RD, alias The Nutrition Planner is a Certified Diabetes Educator. Stewart provides consultant services to individual clients, as well as  corporate, and community health and wellness programs. For more information visit her website,

*The Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the state organization of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. It is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

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