Some “soul food” side dish staples received a healthy makeover as an example of how one doesn’t have to give up taste when trying to eat healthier.

Michele Ketterick, a registered and licensed dietitian, demonstrated how one could cook a healthier version of macaroni and cheese, greens and cornbread during her “Cooking with Heart” class on April 2 sponsored by the Pathways Plate Program in the Culinary Literacy Center at the downtown branch of the Lorain Public Library.

The event helped kick off Ohio Minority Health Month.

In using wheat pasta and cutting out the cream, butter, and tons of cheese, you can produce a tasty mac and cheese recipe, Ketterick showed.

“It’s the ultimate comfort food,” Ketterick said of mac and cheese. “Lots of butter, cheese and tons of cheese. Delicious. Some people will top in with bread crumbs.”

Ketterick’s recipe is for one pot. She designed it to compete with the instant mac and cheese so many eat these days.

A ½ cup serving of your typical store-bought mac and cheese packs 370 calories with 890 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbs and 12 grams of fat.

“It’s not very healthy at all,” Ketterick said.

Ketterick’s version features whole wheat pasta, whole milk instead of cream and, unsalted butter.

“Where ever we can we are trying to save on that sodium,” Ketterick said.

Instead of a processed cheese that is squeezed out of a bag, Ketterick used shredded sharp cheddar and mixed it with parmesan cheese, along with some black pepper, garlic powder, and some mustard.

“My recipe has 400 grams of sodium per ½ cup serving compared to 890 (in the boxed version). The average person needs 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.” Ketterick said.

To make greens, Kettrick invented her own recipe. Instead of boiling the greens in a broth as so many cooks do, she sautees them in vegetable or olive oil and then adds some onions, fresh garlic, and turkey bacon to add a smokey flavor as well as some smoked Paprika.

Ketterick said her recipe, yields only 100 milligrams of sodium per serving, while traditional greens, which are usually boiled in a broth, have 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

Ketterick, who adopted two Black children, said it was important to her to learn how to make “soul food” so she could expose her children to that aspect of their culture.

Overall, she urged audience members to explore eating more of a plant-based diet and move away from an animal-based diet.

“It reduces inflammation, it improves your gut health and reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers,” said Ketterick of a plant-based diet.

Events like the one Ketterick participated in are a “great way to educate the community,” on healthy eating, she said.

“It brings people together, they share some good nutrition and hopefully they take it home and apply it to their lives,” said Ketterick.

The Pathway Enrichment Program will end its year of programming on April 9 with a Physician Speak Series at the John A. Spitzer Conference Center, 1005 N. Abbe Road, Elyria.  The event features free blood pressure checks, vendors, and door prizes. It starts a 10 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. For more information call 440-834-2490.