Breaking Some Family Traditions is a Very Good Thing

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African–American families needn’t spiral down into a gooey quicksand of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese during every family gathering. It’s possible to maintain good nutrition and the family’s waistlines with a little preparation and modest self–control.

If you’re off to Mama’s house for a big dinner, have a talk with her first about what she plans to serve. Suggest low–fat, low–sugar recipes from popular cookbooks from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association that are filled with delicious, health–friendly alternatives to our fattening holiday favorites.

Mama may be more receptive than you think to health conscious family eating. She’s probably as concerned as you are about her high blood pressure as well as Grandpa’s Diabetes.

Go shopping with her for extra veggies and fewer carbohydrates (It’s really not necessary to have rice and potatoes and stuffing and macaroni and butter rolls all in the same meal, is it??) Encourage her to forego the ham hocks she uses to season greens and replace them with lean turkey sausage. It’s equally tasty with far less fat. Soft drinks are a big source of empty calories, so buy sugar–free lemonade and iced tea mixes along with lots of bottled water.

When Black families are around the house for hours and hours, mindless munching is the norm, so fill snack bowls with fresh fruit, mixed nuts and sugar–free candies instead of greasy, salty chips.

Choose fresh fruit again for a colorful, healthy dessert salad to replace that German chocolate cake. Speaking of cake, a light angel food round crowned with fresh strawberries and fat–free topping is much better for the kids than Aunt Shirley’s all butter pound cake.

Last but not least, round everyone up for an after–dinner walk in the cool evening air. It will be lots more fun than watching them fall asleep one by one in front of the TV. Besides, the mild exercise will give a good stretch, aid digestion and eliminate the need for a bedtime cocktail of the "pink stuff" or a mouthful of antacids.

Family gatherings can be nutritious occasions if you let them, if you plan in advance and if you are willing to break with eating traditions that have made obesity and Diabetes epidemic health concerns in the African– American community.

What better time is there to start a new set of traditions than when the whole family is gathered together? Your unified commitment to a healthier life will ensure many wonderful family dinners for years and years to come.

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