Healthy And Light Southern Classic Recipes

Pork Tenderloin Sliders

We cut the calories—but not the flavor—in your favorite dishes. These recipes may taste delicious and look decadent, but imagine your surprise when you learn how healthy they are. These recipes take Southern classics and lighten them up without losing any of the flavor, 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 meatloaf. But for truly healthy Southern recipes, you will marvel at 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.

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Chicken Salad With Grapes And Pecans

Chicken Salad With Grapes and Pecans on a plate with leaf lettuce and club crackers
Will Dickey

To make this lightened-up version of chicken salad, use half light mayonnaise with half light sour cream or Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and slightly lower in calories. Combined with boneless, skinless chicken breast, grapes, and pecans, this will soon be your favorite lunch staple. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves.

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Cornbread Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes
Photo: Jennifer Davick

Enjoy a guilt-free serving of these hearty crab cakes with a dollop of cilantro-jalapeño sour cream. This recipe calls for lightly coating the crab cakes with cooking spray and browning them in a skillet. Add fresh greens to your plate for extra goodness.

03 of 23

Healthy Turkey Lasagna

Lean Lasagna
Hector Sanchez; Styling: Karin Olsen

For a leaner version of this classic family dish, we layered saucy ground turkey with spinach, Parmesan, and low-fat cottage cheese. You'll love the savory smells of bay leaf, fennel, and oregano that waft from the kitchen. Don't worry, there's still more mozzarella that you'll sprinkle on top before serving.

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Mac And Cheese With Ham

Baked Smokin’ Macaroni and Cheese
Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

This delicious mac and cheese uses low-fat ingredients yet still melts in your mouth. Evaporated low-fat milk and cream cheese stand in for whole cream. You can also try our vegetarian version with pimientos.

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Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding
Jennifer Davick

This chocolate pudding is everything you dream of—chocolaty rich, silky smooth, and light on calories. Even better, the homemade pudding only requires 15 minutes of hands-on time. Once you've committed this simple dessert recipe to memory, experiment with our espresso and raspberry variations.

06 of 23

Maple-Chiplotle Air Fryer Pork Chops

Maple Chipotle Air Fryer Pork Chops
Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Karen Ranking; Prop Stylist Julia Bayless

Forget deep-fat frying or suffering through dry, unchewable meat. With this recipe, your chops will be juicy and tender, spicy and flavorful. The maple and adobo sauce is sweet and tangy with just the right amount of heat.

07 of 23

Sautéed Mustard Greens With Garlic And Lemon

Sautéed Mustard Greens with Garlic and Lemon
Laurey W. Glenn

This super fresh, garlicky, lemony mustard green recipe is quick to cook, low on fat, and high on flavor. Coated in light olive oil and sautéed with plenty of fresh flavors and seasoning, these mustard greens will complement your barbecue or any holiday meal. Try this recipe with other greens like kale, collards, or turnip greens if you prefer.

08 of 23

Summer Squash Gratin

Quick Balsamic Pickled Beets
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Give your vegetables a chance to shine with a healthier alternative to squash casserole. The squash is cooked simply with sweet onion, garlic, and thyme, and topped off with buttery, cheesy breadcrumbs that crisp under the broiler. After you bite into the pleasantly crisp-tender vegetables and crunchy panko topping, you may find you're never going back.

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Key "Light" Pie

Key "Light" Pie
Photo: Jennifer Davick

Our Key "Light" Pie is creamy and tart as ever. Featuring egg substitute and fat-free sweetened condensed milk, you'll feel light as a beach breeze after you eat it. And the four-ingredient recipe is just as easy as the original.

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Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Howard Lee Puckett

Smoked turkey sausage, bell peppers, and red beans come together in this easy slow-cooker version of the Louisiana staple. Serve over long-grain rice and sprinkle with red and green onions for a hearty, but not heavy, meal.

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Lightened Hummingbird Cake

Lightened Hummingbird Cake Recipes

If you can't get through summer without eating this banana-and-pineapple-laden cake, never fear. We lowered the fat and calories by substituting applesauce for some of the oil, using less butter, sugar, and eggs, and substituting light for regular cream cheese.

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Light King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Light King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Light King Ranch Chicken Casserole

If you think cutting calories means giving up the foods you love, think again. Loaded with peppers, chicken, and cheese, his top-rated makeover is every bit as creamy and satisfying as the full-fat original.

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Lemon-Tarragon Potato Salad

Lemon-Tarragon Potato Salad
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

While we certainly love a classic Southern potato salad dressed in plenty of mayo, our Test Kitchen sought to develop a light and zingy potato salad recipe that still maintains a creamy texture. One-third of the potatoes are mashed to add body to the salad, while the celery gives it plenty of crunch. The salad is tossed with quick-pickled shallots and a lemon vinaigrette for refreshing flavor.

14 of 23

Crispy Oven-Fried Drumsticks

Crispy Oven-fried Drumsticks
Ralph Anderson

Who knew you could have golden brown, crunchy drumsticks without a deep fryer? Coat the chicken with a mixture of buttermilk, crushed cornflakes, Parmesan cheese, and seasoning. Bake until tender inside and crisp outside. We'd like two buckets, please.

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Banana Pudding

Healthy Desserts: Banana Pudding
Photo: Jennifer Davick

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, though it can be made in an 8-inch square pan.

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Air Fryer Okra

air fryer okra on a black plate

Caitlin Bensel

Experience the joy of crispy fried okra without all the mess. The veggies are dipped in a beaten egg and tossed in a coating made with cornmeal and flour. A touch of cooking spray ensures the air-fried okra bakes up crispy and golden brown—just like it would in a pan.

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Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas
Photo: Jennifer Davick

You'll love this flavorful take on enchiladas. Chicken is combined with a spicy mixture of low-fat cream cheese, pepper Jack, onions, and green chiles. Charring the tortillas over a flame is an optional step that adds a note of smokiness. Top with tomatillo salsa and cilantro.

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West Indies Crab Salad

West Indies Crab Salad
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This little-known dish (believed to have originated in Mobile, Alabama) is tangy-sweet and a great alternative to mayonnaise-loaded seafood salads. Dress your crabmeat in a vinaigrette balanced with a small portion of sugar. Finely chopped onion, lemon zest, and mint leaves make this a delightfully zingy light lunch.

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Air Fryer Hush Puppies

air fryer hush puppies
Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist:Christine Keely Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

Here's another air fryer recipe that will allow you to indulge without any regrets. The batter for these puffy hush puppies involves a mixture of cornmeal, flour, buttermilk, chopped onions, and hot sauce. With that much flavor, you won't miss the grease at all.

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Mini Berry Cobblers

Mini Berry Cobblers Recipe
Jennifer Davick

This dish proves that you can rely on fruit's natural sugars for most of the sweetness in cobbler, that must-have summertime treat. And they're just the right size for a petite pastry-and-berry bite. Make them in miniature cast-iron skillets for a Southern spin.

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Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili
Hector M. Sanchez

This tomato-based chili has all the flavor you're looking for with a lot less fat. Plus it's fairly quick to prepare using a rotisserie chicken (make sure to remove the skin before shredding). Add as much heat, light sour cream, and cilantro as you desire.

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Turkey Meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

The ultimate comfort food gets a low-fat makeover with ground turkey and ground turkey sausage. We include the mandatory mixture of tomato, ketchup, and Worcestershire on top. You'll be transported to childhood with every bite.

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Pork Tenderloin Sliders

Pork Tenderloin Sliders

We wouldn't dare stand in the way of your favorite pulled pork or smoked brisket, but these dry-rubbed sliders just might win you over. We sear lean pork tenderloin in a skillet and finish it off in the oven. Slather with a smoky barbecue sauce or try one of our flavorful condiments, like Blackberry-Honey Mustard Sauce.

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