CDC concerned over southern diet

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

A recent story by the Associated Press caught my attention simply because I'm a southerner and this writer was writing about southerners.

It seems US health officials have become fed up (excuse the pun) with the South in general because of our food choices. Well, not really our food choices, per se, but what we like to do with the food we choose as in fry it, layer it in butter and lard and top it off with a spoonful of mayonnaise.

Obesity, our nation's ever-expanding health concern, has taken root in the South like a disagreeable bunch of carpetbaggers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started noticing high stroke rates for counties located near the coast in the Carolinas and Georgia back in 1962. 43 years later, stroke rates have migrated down through Alabama and across the Mississippi River.

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Ironically, the CDC headquarters is located in Atlanta. They serve biscuit and gravy and all the other good things grand-momma could make in their on-site cafeteria.

The South has long been associated with food – fried food in particular. Chicken and dumplings are Sunday after service staples as is cornbread, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and fried, green tomatoes.

For breakfast, it's eggs and bacon, jelly, cheese and sausage. For lunch, it's a half-a-pound of hamburger on a toasted bun and a plateful of thick fries. Sweet tea or Coke and Pepsi are our beverages of choice.

But we have healthy choices also. And we do bake our food on occasion. There's baked potatoes. (Topped with sour cream and butter please). Oh, and baked beans. (Drench them in sugary syrup, though.)

And between breakfast, lunch and dinner, there's the ever-present fast food restaurant to tempt us on the corner.

And now, just writing this, I've really made myself hungry.

Nostalgia in the South plays a big part in the way, why and how we eat. The smells we associate with food often remind us of our mothers or grandmothers laboring the afternoon away over a hot stove. Second helpings were a given, not an option. You ate until you were full and I mean full - not until you thought you were full. There was, and is, little thinking done at the dinner table.

In the South we also mark the cities and towns we visit by the better places to consume a meal. A southerner possesses the uncanny ability to sniff out a good supper.

So what to do? Give up the chocolate pie, the deep-fried shrimp, or the barbecued chicken?

Thankfully, there's ways to have your cake and eat it to. You can practice moderation. Don't just eat seconds because it's expected of you. Push away from the table once in awhile. Make food swaps. Wheat bread for white, one percent milk for whole, diet soda for regular. Saut/ foods with a cooking spray instead of vegetable oil. And try and fit an exercise session into your daily schedule.

Do this during the week.

Eat like a southerner on the weekend.

Kevin Pearcey is editor of The Luverne Journal. He can be reached at

335-3541 or

via email at kevin.pearcey@