Lighten Up! Southern Classics
We cut the the calories—but not the flavor—in your favorite dishes.
That dish may taste delicious and look decadent, but imagine your surprise when you learn how healthy it is. These recipes take Southern classics and lighten them up without losing any of their flavors, using healthy substitutions to keep them tasting great. Light cornbread crumbs and reduced-fat mayonnaise mean you’ll be keeping our Cornbread Crab Cakes on the menu. If you prefer a comfort-food classic, you will love the recipe for Lean Lasagna. But for truly healthy Southern recipes, you will marvel at the Shrimp and Grits: this Lowcountry delight now weighs in at a lean 235 calories per serving, and the Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches which will keep you devouring all the mouthwatering ’cue you want. So plan your favorite meal because these healthy Southern recipes will mean you won’t have to give up a thing.
Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
Recipe: Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
Leftover chicken gets a fresh makeover with crisp lettuce leaves, toasted walnuts, and dried cherries. Freeze any extra meat in portion sizes, and use in future recipes. We love the convenience of whipping up a batch of this easy-to-make chicken salad to have on-hand throughout the week. Serve in lettuce cups, like we did here, or with crackers and fruit.
Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon
A little bit of turmeric enhances the color here; it's a bit of a trick that makes you perceive the sauce as cheesier than it actually is.
Cornbread Crab Cakes
Recipe: Cornbread Crab Cakes
Enjoy a guilt-free serving of these hearty crab cakes with a rich dollop of cilantro-jalapeño sour cream. Add fresh greens to your plate for extra goodness.
Recipe: Lean Lasagna
Our favorite recipe from the Cooking Light column, this lightened-up lasagna tastes every bit as flavorful as the traditional version.
Home-style Green Bean Casserole
Recipe: Home-style Green Bean Casserole
This green bean casserole gets a much-needed makeover from fresh veggies and a lightened (but super-rich!) homemade sauce. And the best part: It's under 200 calories per serving!
Shrimp and Grits
Recipe: Shrimp and Grits
Enjoy this Lowcountry favorite without the guilt! We reduced the calories to 235 a serving. It seems too good to be true!
Baked Smokin' Macaroni and Cheese
This delicious mac and cheese is light on butter and cheese yet still melts in your mouth. Change the flavor profile of the recipe with combinations such as sweet peas and proscuitto or ham and broccoli.
Cornflake, Pecan, and Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
This sweet potato casserole is always going to be amazingly nutty and crunchy, but adding cornflakes cereal to the pecan-brown sugar topping gives the casserole extra crispiness. Each topping tastes beautifully toasty, and comes together in a medley of flavors all rolled into a single bite. The Cornflake, Pecan, and Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole is a rich and filling dish, sweet and savory at the same time. Set this down on the sideboard for a buffet-style Thanksgiving meal and your friends and family will be piling their plates high. They’ll also marvel at how beautiful it looks with its rows of cornflakes, pecans, and marshmallows spread diagonally across the top.
Recipe: Chocolate Pudding
This chocolate pudding is everything you dream of—chocolaty rich, silky smooth, and light on calories!
Smoky Pork Stir-Fry
Recipe: Smoky Pork Stir-Fry
This zesty stir-fry offers restaurant-style flavor for a fraction of the calories. Smoked paprika and dark sesame oil add depth to this stir-fry. Serve over precooked brown rice or soba noodles.
Sage-and-Pecan Pork Tenderloin Cutlets
Instead of fried pork chops, try these pork tenderloin cutlets. Tenderloin is low in fat, and this recipe is "fried" with just enough heart-healthy oil for the crispy crunch you crave!
Turnip Greens Stew
Recipe: Turnip Greens Stew
Lean ham and fat-free broth offer the good flavor of the original dish minus the added saturated fat. Beans add extra fiber too!
Roasted Vegetable Pizza
Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Pizza
If you're craving a loaded-out pizza, give this veggie pizza a try! A whole wheat crust topped with roasted sweet potatoes and other colorful veggies ups the good-for-you-factor without skimping on flavor.
Layered Carrot Cake
Recipe: Layered Carrot Cake
For this healthier version of carrot cake, we reduced the fat in the batter by using less vegetable oil and sugar, yet it is still as moist as traditional cakes. We also reduced the butter and used reduced-fat cream cheese for the frosting, without losing the flavor!
Lightened Squash Casserole
Recipe: Lightened Squash Casserole
Take advantage of this golden veggie in a lightened version of squash casserole. The combo of cornflakes and French fried onions adds an irresistible crunch without adding too many calories.
Key "Light" Pie
Recipe: Key "Light" Pie
If you love Key lime pie, you'll hear angels sing (Jimmy Buffett tunes) when you taste how rich this version is without all the fat!
Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Lightened Hot Browns
Recipe: Lightened Hot Browns
Grab a knife and fork, and dig in. There's no guilt behind these hot browns—they're lightened and full of flavor. Typically, this open-faced Kentucky classic is made with a heavy cheese sauce, but we found a way to deliver the same richness without all the saturated fat.
Lightened Hummingbird Cake
Recipe: Lightened Hummingbird Cake
We lowered the fat and calories by substituting applesauce for some of the oil, using less butter and sugar, fewer eggs, and substituting light for regular cream cheese.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
These simply-seasoned grilled pork tenderloin sandwiches are topped with a sweet onion barbecue sauce and served on whole wheat buns. Add vitamin-rich leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, Bibb lettuce, or peppery arugula.
Light King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Recipe: Light King Ranch Casserole
If you think cutting calories means giving up the foods you love, think again. This top-rated makeover is every bit as creamy and satisfying as the full-fat original.
Layered Bean Dip
Recipe: Layered Lima Bean Dip
A hearty serving of Layered Lima Bean Dip clocks in at only 172 calories. Top lightly with shredded cheese and bacon. You’ll be surprised at how fast it will disappear.
Herbed Potato Salad
Recipe: Herbed Potato Salad
This updated Southern classic is made with a creamy herb mixture that has fewer fat grams but still all the flavor of the traditional recipes.
Crispy Oven-fried Drumsticks
Recipe: Crispy Oven-fried Drumsticks
These oven-fried chicken drumsticks have a satisfyingly crunchy texture. We loved the flavor results when we used 1/2 tsp. red pepper. Use 1/4 tsp. for kids.
Cornbread Stuffing With Sweet Potato and Squash
Increase both the color and the flavor of your cornbread stuffing by adding cubed butternut squash, sweet potato, and Granny Smith apple.
Slightly Sweet Tea
Recipe: Slightly Sweet Tea
Serve refreshing sweet tea to guests without a tinge of guilt. This green tea version is sweetened with honey and flavored with orange and lime. At 68 calories per cup, you may find a new summer favorite.
Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread
Recipe: Banana Pudding
This pudding delivers a velvety rich custard, ripe banana flavor, vanilla wafers so soft they melt in your mouth, and an irresistible golden-baked meringue topping. All this, and it's lower in fat and calories than traditional versions. These make great individual party desserts, or make it in an 8-inch square pan. We love it with extra wafers.
Recipe: Succotash Salad
Put a summertime spin on this traditional Southern dish of beans and corn by mixing with lemon juice and chives and serving cold. It’s easy to prepare in advance and pull out of the fridge to serve with meat hot off the grill.
Fresh Vegetable Lasagna
Recipe: Fresh Vegetable Lasagna
This vegetable lasagna showcases a plethora of fresh veggies from zucchini, to mushrooms, to red and yellow bell peppers.
Stovetop Red Beans and Rice
Recipe: Stovetop Red Beans and Rice
Here's a low-fat version of the Louisiana favorite with all the classic, cue-the-trombones flavor you'd expect in this hearty dish.
Mixed Fruit Chicken Salad
Greek Chicken Salad
Recipe: Greek Chicken Salad
Mediterranean flavors abound in Greek Chicken Salad. Serve this chicken salad on toasted pita bread wedges.
Lemon-Basil Chicken Salad
Recipe: Lemon-Basil Chicken Salad
Baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes add flavor and color to this tasty chicken salad. Serve on whole grain flatbread.
Curried Chicken Salad
Recipe: Curried Chicken Salad
This chicken salad is full of bold flavor with ingredients such as red curry paste, fresh cilantro, and golden raisins mixed together. Try it on baked egg roll wrappers.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Classic Pimiento Cheese
Recipe: Classic Pimiento Cheese
To all you pimiento cheese purists, we dare you not to love this healthier twist.
Roasted Vegetable Loaded Potatoes
Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Loaded Potatoes
A healthy spin on the traditional loaded baked potatoes. Replace the restaurant-size scoops of butter and sour cream with these good-for-you toppings.
Fried Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion Gravy
Pound chops into thin cutlets to create more surface area, then pan-fry them, rather than deep-fry, to crispy perfection.Try this versatile technique with chicken, beef, or veal cutlets.
Roasted Cherry Hand Pies
Recipe: Roasted Cherry Hand Pies
No need to fry these pies! Vodka enhances the crusts' flakiness, so you can use less butter. Chill the dough to help it hold its shape as it bakes.
Gumbo Gravy over Stone-ground Grits
Browned flour makes a low-fat gravy, while the slow cooker creates the creamiest grits without cheese or butter. And with a light gravy, you can indulge in andouille sausage.
Vegetarian Enchilada Pies
Chicken and Sweet Potato Dumplings
Sweet potato creates pillowy, gnocchi-like dumplings and adds Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Calcium, and Potassium. Start with a whole chicken to create a flavorful, refined broth.
Tomato-Basil Lasagna Rolls
Recipe: Tomato-Basil Lasagna Rolls
Canned artichokes give the rich filling its meaty heft. Feel free to sub sautéed 'shrooms or spinach.