New Year’s Day Traditional Eats

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Black eyed peas- tons of them piled together
Black Eyed Peas

Traditional foods eating on New Year’s Day for dinner may be more along the lines of superstition than really good eats.  For centuries the tradition or superstition has been that BLACK EYED PEAS must be eaten because they represent or will bring not only good luck or fortune but also money.  In the south, USA, it is hard to find a household where black eyed peas will not be a part of the menu.  It is believed that these rather innocent little legumes look something like coins which makes them representative of money or that when they are cooked they expand which represents expanding wealth.  There is no traditional cooking method for the unassuming peas but they are usually combined with some pork.

These are legumes so they are naturally high in fiber and also a rich source of potassium.  Calorie wise, when consumed alone, are about 70 calories in a normal serving. The black eyed peas are rather bland so most recipes have sea salt, garlic, and something hot like chili pepper or hot sauce to punch up the flavor.  It can be made into soup, salad, dip for chips, put in casseroles and more.  Nothing in the tradition or superstition dictates they must be eaten plain. 

No self-respecting dinner table on New Year’s Day would not include the mighty Collard Green.  Greens are always going to be a good food choice nutrition wise but if you cook them to ‘death’ then you will cook away most of the nutritional value.  Remember, the darker green the vegetable, the more nutritional value it contains.

How Collard Greens look growing..resembles a green flower
Collard Greens in the Garden

Like all greens, the collard greens are loaded with wonderful nutritional value such as great vitamins like A and E, magnesium, fiber, iron, antioxidants, and more.  The list goes on with this vegetable.  In fact, it outshines the all-mighty broccoli in terms of lowering cholesterol.  It is also attributed to a cancer fighting food.  If collard greens is not one of your normal choices of veggies, perhaps it needs to be included in your menu plan for the week.  

Cut and Cleaned Collard Greens
Cut and Cleaned Collard Greens

 There are many ways to prepare this vegetable but most often it is combined with or served with some type of pork.  If you find it to be bitter a spoon full of sugar goes a long way and it makes it more attractive for children.  Not too much though.  It does need salt to bring out the most flavor so perhaps sea salt is a good choice.  Salt intake is necessary for good health but too much does more damage than good, health wise.

Collard Greens along side Mustard Greens
Collard Greens along side Mustard Greens

The collard green and other greens like mustard greens are from the group of vegetables referred to as cruciferous (broccoli and cabbage family) vegetables.  These have amazing health benefits and really should be eating in large portion sizes at least three times a week.  The best cooking method is steamed as with all vegetables but as long as you do not cook them down to mush they are still a great addition to your menu, on New Years Day and all year long.  If you do cook them too long they will begin to have a strange and unappetizing smell.  To cook them quicker just cut the leaves into half-inch pieces and the stems should be removed and cut into quarter-inch pieces. 

slice of corn bread
Good Ole Corn Bread

The tradition of eating Collard Greens on New Years Day is to bring money into the home.  The green of the greens representing the green of money.  Somehow, though, in southern tradition the collard greens and black eyed peas must be accompanied with corn bread, southern that is!

Corn bread is about 190 calories in a piece like in the picture.  That will vary on how it is prepared, as in from scratch, with things added (corn, peppers, etc.) or from a mix.  Northern corn bread is much sweeter than southern so the calorie intake will be higher from the sugar added.  Corn bread is basically 10% from fat, 10% cholesterol, and 20% sodium.  Health wise this is not your best food choice but one piece once in a while should not disrupt your diet.  As in all foods the second and third helping will be problematic.  Corn bread is a great treat on New Years Day and if it does attract money to your household the why not indulge.

sliced hamHam contains a high level of some of the essential B vitamins, such as B1, B12, and niacin. It is also rich in other nutrients, such as phosphorous, zinc, potassium, iron and magnesium, which are important to our daily diet. Our bodies require a certain amount of protein daily and the body does not store protein so we need to replenish it each day. A 3-ounce portion of ham provides approximately 30% to 50% of our daily requirement for protein, depending on the type of ham.

Ham is high in sodium due to the curing process. It can contain half of the daily-recommended intake for sodium. When planning a menu that includes ham, you should add items that are low in sodium to try to keep your total sodium intake down.

Protein is good in any menu as long as you do not add tons of salt, sugar or oils like in fried foods.
If you are using food combining techniques or have digestive problems then eat your corn bread separately from the ham.  It will make a nice snack a couple hours after the big meal.

Enjoy your day!  It is the first day of the year and the mark of a new beginning.  

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