A festive, warm and common part of the African-American culture and the religious community is celebrating and fellowshipping with food. A spread of delectables ranging from fried chicken, pork laden collard greens, mac and cheese (with extra cheese!) and buttery sweet potato pie can easily be found at any family or church gathering, on any particular day.
While the bible teaches us against gluttony, we often practice this very thing at mealtime. In the interest of fellowship, we gather to indulge in high caloric foods and often with more than one serving on our plates. Soul food is not just about eating; it is a part of the representation of our culture with ties to slavery and our broad history. As delicious as our cultural menu has proven to be, it comes with consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at 48.1%, African-Americans have the highest obesity rate of all other groups. Sadly, obesity in our churches, families and communities almost seems like the norm.
While fellowship and cultural preservation is important to help us remain bonded, we must ask ourselves: Does our diet have to remain the same? It doesn’t! With research capabilities literally at our fingertips; social media, websites and even old-school cookbooks abound full of healthy meal options allowing unhealthy ingredients to be swapped out for healthier ones. Even our favorite soul foods can be prepared in a healthier manner. And not just at home – churches can contribute to this issue by making changes in meal preparation. Baking, broiling, roasting and boiling roasting make great alternatives for frying. A simple decrease in salt, sugar and oil can make a remarkable difference in the health and caloric value of a dish.
There is hope for our community. The key is change. Along with research; consuming less, making alterations to food preparation methods and swapping out unhealthy ingredients are keys to the road to end obesity. These practices will yet allow and foster our food and fellowship relationship without losing our cultural richness.