Healthy Cajun Options for a Healthy New Year

written by Jessica Chiasson Wood on January 27, 2014 in Cajun with 5 comments

Red Beans & Rice

If you enjoy the way that Cajun food spices up your life but not the weight that comes with it, there is no need to despair. With most people shifting to diets to shed off all of those holiday pounds, we want to show that Cajun cooking can continue to be a part of your regular diet as long as you know how to cook it the healthy way. So rather than set your New Year’s resolution to cut rich Cajun food out of your meals, learn how to cook healthy Cajun meals that can be enjoyed regularly.

Whether you like Southern-Style Oven-Fried Chicken, Sweet-Potato Muffins, or Jambalaya, there are healthier ways to enjoy these Cajun favorites that taste just as delicious.  With the right knowledge and by using the right ingredients, you can transform any Cajun specialty into a healthy dish.

There is no doubt that Cajun food is spicy. But what may come as a surprise to some is that many dishes are also high in trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, saturated fat, or even a combination of all three. However, these issues can be addressed by using healthier ingredients and making the right eating choices.

Not All Dishes are Made Equal

If you enjoy eating all things Cajun on a regular basis, now is a good time to consider the impact each dish has on your health. Naturally, not all dishes are made equal and some are healthier than others.  According to the American Heart Association, avoiding fried seafood and hush puppies is a must if you want to put yourself on the path to healthy eating. When it comes to blackened entrees, these are commonly dipped in butter or oil, then coated in various spices and fried. If preparing this dish yourself, it is best to reduce the amount of oil the recipe calls for. If you are eating out, various gravies and sauces can add a high amount of calories to any meal. Ask for these to be served on the side so that you are not forced to consume them entirely.

One of the keys to cooking healthy Cajun food is learning to substitute ingredients. While some substitutions may shock and horrify, if you give them a chance and try them out, you might just be surprised how you have overlooked these tasty alternatives for so long.

It’s Not What You Cook but How You Cook Them

When it comes to healthy eating, sometimes the ingredients are not the issue but rather how you cook them. If you enjoy eating fried crawfish or shrimp, try eating boiled shrimp or crawfish instead. That goes for just about any fried seafood. It’s best to avoid fried meals at all costs. But you can enjoy an equally satisfying meal by using the boiling or grilling method.

Substituting or dropping certain ingredients from recipes can also go a long way to making a meal healthy. Fried shrimp and oyster Po’Boy sandwiches can be substituted with a turkey or roast beef Po’Boy. Rather than eating dirty rice filled with chicken gizzards, livers, and butter, just substitute plain white rice. If you want to go really healthy, you can even try using brown rice. If you like indulging in rich dishes like gumbo, etouffee, and any sauces made with a roux, try opting for a creole or jambalaya dish instead. For those who eat red beans and rice with sausage, try eating the meal without the sausage.

Learn to How to Cook Healthy Meals

Although these alternatives may not appeal to some, it is important to acknowledge that there are an infinite number of ways to alter meals to make them healthier. The more that you educate yourself on healthy eating practices and healthy ingredients, you will be able to adjust recipes to make them healthier while customizing them to suit your tastes and preferences.  They may not always taste quite as good as the rich favorites but you will need to compromise on some dishes. By learning to cook in a healthy way, you can enjoy a low-calorie, low-fat diet without sacrificing satisfying Cajun meals. Sometimes slight modifications to recipes can also be helpful. While they may not generate drastic results on the health front, there are definitely minor changes that you can make that will still provide a healthier option without any dramatic changes.

One dish that resides deep in the hearts of Cajun people is Gumbo. It’s a comfort food that few are able to part with. While recipes vary, one of the main secrets to a hearty and delicious Gumbo is a good roux. This is often made using an entire cup of flour and an entire cup of oil. With one cup of oil producing approximately 1900 calories and over 200 grams of fat, most people would agree that is simply too much fat. However, there are many solutions available for producing a fat free roux such as browned flour. As for the rest, no Gumbo is ever complete without onions, bell peppers and celery. Most of the main ingredients of the dish can remain the same but there are healthier choices that you can make such as using chicken breast and serving it over brown rice. These are all minor changes but they can have a dramatic health effect even just by using a fat free roux. With a little bit of creativity and enhanced knowledge of healthy eating options, there is no reason that “Fat Tuesday” should ever become a reality in your home.

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