Celebrate Kwanzaa: Be Ready to Start the New Year off Healthy
by Michelle J. Stewart     

Kwanzaa is a seven-day African American celebration with focus on traditional values of family, community responsibility, commerce and self-improvement. Kwanzaa, which means “The Fruits of the Harvest” in the African language Kiswahili, has become very popular since its introduction by founder Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. It is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st.

The first fruits of the harvest are never more evident than on the final day of the celebration as food is the heart of the festivities.  This is the time for family, friends and community to indulge in an array of traditional dishes reflecting the African American melting pot filled with a stew of Africa, Caribbean , Low Country, Creole and Cajun cuisine.

Today we can lighten up our old family recipes while retaining the best qualities of traditional soul foods. Lush tropical fruits and vegetables are typical of the celebration which are chocked full of vitamins and nutrients. Sweet potatoes, black eye peas, greens, rice, peanuts and okra are traditional African foods rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin A, folate, calcium, and vitamin C and loaded with antioxidants.

Kick the New Year off right with African American inspired foods that have a healthy flair.  


Healthy Tips for Celebrating Kwanzaa

  • Look over the Mkeba or buffet and decide what you will choose before you get in line. If there are 10 items, choose your favorite 4 or 5 and indulge with moderation.
  • Keep in mind the “fruits of harvest” theme, include lots of fruits and vegetables in your meals they are usually lower in fat and calorie content. Let your plate look like a box of creoles.
  • When ever possible bake, boil, broil, grill, stew or poach instead of frying.
  • Eat the foods you love, just reduce the portions and eat slowly. Take 20 minutes to complete a meal and also take 20 minutes after eating before considering “seconds.” Chances are you will not want more food.

For more tips and recipes about Kwanzaa, and healthy options, check out Dash of Soul on www.culinary.net or Michelle J. Stewart , food and nutrition consultant, at www.thenutritionplanner.com.


The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
"Umoja" - Unity
"Kujichagulia" - Self-determination
"Ujima" - Collective Work and responsibility
"Ujamaa" - Cooperative Economics
"Nia" - Purpose
"Kuumba" - Creativity
"Imani" - Faith




Low-Fat Pie Crust

1 1/2    cup all-purpose flour

1/2       tablespoon sugar

1/2       teaspoon salt

1/4       cup canola oil

1/2       cup skim milk

1.      Combine flour, sugar & salt.

2.      Mix together oil and milk.

3.      Add half the milk and oil mixture to the flour until you get the consistency of green peas.

4.      Add the remainder of the milk-oil mixture.

5.      Add additional milk if needed.

6.      Form a ball; roll out on a well-floured pastry cloth.

7.      Place in a 9” pie plate, adjust crust & flute edges.


Sweet Potato Pie

Serves 8

Total preparation and cooking time: 1 1/2 hours

1 cup Splenda granular no calorie sweetener

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cup cooked sweet potatoes

1 1/2 cup evaporated Skim milk

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

1. Combine sweetener, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Stir in the sweet potato.

3. Add vanilla, evaporated milk and egg whites.

4. Beat until smooth.

5. Fold in rum extract.

6.  Pour into piecrust and bake at 450° for 10 minutes.

7. Reduce oven to 325° and bake about 45 minutes. Insert a knife into the middle, if it comes out clean then its done.

Nutritional information per serving: 190 calories (60 calories from fat): 7g total fat

(0.5 g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 25g total carbohydrate

(1g dietary fiber); 6g protein.



An independent food and nutrition consultant based in south Florida , Michelle J. Stewart is a registered dietitian with extensive experience in clinical, culinary and nutrition communication.