Celebrity TV chef, entrepreneur and bestselling author Chef Jernard is on a mission to teach foodies how to incorporate healthy practices into their cooking. We all know food is a staple of Black households, but some of our favorite dishes are loaded with salt, grease and fats. Chef Jernard offers an alternative to our unhealthy food habits that still satisfy our soul food cravings. He also weighs in on how women can get the stubborn men in their life to take an annual visit to the doctor.
HB: As a chef, you specialize in healthy, delicious dishes. How did this become a passion of yours?
CJ: My passion has always been in food; however after cooking for many years and preparing great food, I started to recognize that I needed to change the type of food I was preparing. I started to realize that not only did I want the people I was cooking for to eat, feel good about what they ate, and be healthy, but I also needed to be a representation of what I was becoming passionate about. I started to desire to create the same great food with healthier preparation options for the celebrities that I was cooking for and it motivated me to want to do it for myself as well. I wanted to make sure my food carried the same brand with flavor as it did with being health conscious. I am a father of 9 and I realized that I needed to focus on being here with them for a long time, and I couldn’t do that without changing to healthier options. I need endurance, and I know that many of my clients need endurance too, so we are striving towards that together.
HB: We all know Black People and food go hand in hand, and a lot of times we aren’t approaching food in healthy ways. What are some ways the black community can change the narrative around food and health?
CF: The first thing is grasp how important it is to eat healthy to live healthy. The second thing is to reinforce healthy food can still have great flavor and can still have some of your favorite flavor profiles. We need to truly reset our thinking on what we put in our body and recognize how it affects us. If you want to look and feel healthy, you have to eat the foods that will produce those results after it breaks down in your body. I recommend thinking about what you are going to eat or serve your family before you get it. You can also have conversations to help your family understand that change is good. You can help them by limiting unhealthy options and find healthy options that can still be as flavorful as your collard greens and mac and cheese. Try to avoid just driving and stopping at the first convenient place to get food, put some thought in it.
HB: Many women love to cook for the men in their lives. What are some healthy dishes women can incorporate into their kitchen table while still satisfying their man’s “soul food” craving?
CJ: You can keep the flavor while alternating the way you prepare the meals and still be healthy. For instance, you can have a baked fried chicken vs actually frying chicken in grease. It will still taste the same and be satisfying to the craving, but will not pack the same calories & fat intake because the oven preparation will drain the grease. The key is to paint a picture with your plate. Always make sure your meals are full of colors such as greens from vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, or spinach. You need reds from tomatoes, beets, radish, or red bell peppers. You can even add a little purple from egg plants along with small portions of fish (salmon preferably) for the omega 3, beef, smoked turkey or any other lean protein. Finally you can always add slices of avocado to any meal for a healthy addition.
HB: A lot of men are resistant to seeing doctors and seeking medical help for their health issues. Why do you think that is?
CF: As a man, I feel we don’t like to confront any health issues until they become major. Many of us really take on the out of site out of mind mentality. Symptoms are ignored and unless major medical attention is required, we’d rather just treat the issues at home. It’s as if we feel better not knowing. How can women gently nudge their partners to see a doctor? My wife has actually been very successful in making me feel comfortable addressing my health. She suggested that we have joint visits to the doctor and I actually thought it was a great idea. I felt more comfortable that we both were both getting well check ups. If that idea isn’t received well, try encouraging a little motivational conversation around prevention. You can say to your partner, ” You know it wouldn’t hurt if you schedule a check up to make sure everything is okay and functioning properly. Even make a little small fun bet on whose numbers are better after the check up, etc. Just remember to be subtle. Don’t force it or seem as if they are not in control of the decision to see the doctor. What should the conversation look like? Woman: You know I think it is time for my annual check up. Have you had your annual check up? If there is resistance, then say that yearly check ups are a great way to stay on top of your health and to make sure you have a long healthy life together!
HB: What are some foods Black People should eliminate or moderate in their diet?
CF: I feel we should eliminate eating pork, fried foods, foods containing colors or dyes, high fructose corn syrup, foods pertaining high sugar index, sodas, foods high in sodium, and definitely any processed food items. They should moderate more fresh greenery. They should have a balance of 70% vegetables / fruits and 30 percent other healthy power foods such as salmon, lean beef, chicken, and beans.