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Healthy Living Blog

Information and inspiration to help you make a habit out of living healthy.


Eat Local: Healthier Meat and Three

Thursday, November 09, 2017

By , YMCA Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Living in the South is characterized by many things. Undoubtedly, our love for decadent, indulgent eating is one of them. We make memories with family and friends around plates of barbecue, fried catfish, and okra.

Southern-style dishes like the classic "meat and three" don't exactly bring about thoughts of heart-healthy eating, but that doesn't mean we have to avoid them altogether. It's definitely possible to put a healthier spin on this southern staple. Here are my top five tips to make it happen!

5 tips for a healthier meat and three

  1. Plan for your feast.  Whether you're headed to your favorite southern-style restaurant or out for a sweet treat, it's always a good idea to plan your day around any special eating occasion. This means anticipating what you're going to eat for your other meals and snacks so that you don't overdo it all day.
    Expert tip:  Don't. Skip. Meals. This will always backfire on you and likely lead to consuming even more than if you hadn't skipped a meal at all.

  2. Sip on something unsweet.  It's way too easy to down a glass or two of sweet tea (or three or four!) when enjoying a meal, racking up added sugar and calories without even touching any food. Save your taste buds for the mains and sides you can really savor, and opt for water or unsweetened iced tea.


  3. Forgo the fried stuff.  Don't worry, you won't be left with flavorless food. Instead, focus on entrees that are baked, blackened, grilled, roasted, or smoked for less fat. Also, be mindful of the portions. A good rule of thumb is to stick with protein portions about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.

  4. Fill up on fiber.  Enjoy items like green beans, turnip greens, cucumber salad, boiled cabbage, squash, and stewed okra. Maybe even consider getting a vegetable plate instead of meat, and add to your servings of fruit and vegetables for the day!

  5. Get back to healthy eating ASAP.  The best thing you can do after any indulgent meal is to return to your healthy eating habits as soon as possible. Don't let several days or weeks pass by before getting back on the horse. Remember that you can't out-exercise an unhealthy diet, so jump right back in at the very next opportunity.

Have a healthier southern-style meal you want to share? Tag us on Facebook @ymcamidtn or Twitter @ymcaofmiddletn and use #healthyliving.

Hungry for more?

Check out How to Eat Healthier Hot Chicken. Plus, get to know our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and learn more about our nutrition counseling services. Let us partner with you to reach your healthy living goals!

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