Above: Photo courtesy of JeffreyW of Wikimedia

I was raised, along with many people in the South, to eat collard greens, black-eyed peas, pork and cornbread on New Year’s Day as a superstitious way to ensure prosperity and luck in the upcoming year. It’s a delicious meal, but not always the most nutritious.

Collard greens and black-eyed peas are great sources of fiber and nutrients, but they become much less healthy when ham hock, fatback or several pieces of cornbread and butter are added.

While I’d never dare tell a Southerner to take away their fatback, if you’re looking to lower the fat in your collard greens or black-eyed pea recipe, try using only half of the regular amount or choose healthier pork options.

The pork cuts can be a little confusing and it’s hard to know what cut is leaner than the other. As a general rule of thumb, pork cuts with the word “loin” in the name tend to have less fat. Pork loin and pork tenderloin are two examples of these cuts.

Pork loin should be cooked longer and at a lower heat, or “low and slow,” such as in a crock pot. Pork tenderloin is meant to be cooked at a higher temperature and for less time. When cooking these cuts of pork, make sure the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, and be sure to let it rest for 3 minutes before cutting.

Now everyone has an opinion on whether regular or sweet cornbread is better. We may not ever agree on that, but if you’re trying to make your New Year’s meal a little healthier, avoid the sweet cornbread recipes to cut out some sugar.

No matter what kind of cornbread you eat, though, make sure you’re only eating the recommended serving of cornbread: a 2-inch by 2-inch square.

If you’re open to trying a meatless version of our Southern tradition, you could try this “Lucky” Southern Salsa recipe, which doesn’t use any pork and has great flavor.

Whatever you decide, we wish you the best of luck in 2018!

This article was written with the help of UGA Extension Fulton County’s dietetic intern, Taylor Dixon.


Photo courtesy of Foodtalk.org, UGA Extension

“Lucky” Southern Salsa


  • 15.5 oz. can of low sodium black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup diced green onions
  • 1/3 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 10-12 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • ½ tsp. salt-free seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper


  1. Rinse black-eyed peas in a colander and pour into a large bowl.
  2. Combine lime juice, oil, salt-free seasoning and black pepper in a smaller bowl. Stir well.
  3. Combine all ingredients into large bowl with peas. Stir well.
  4. Serve as a salad or with tortilla chips.

Recipe from the University of Georgia’s Food Talk program, foodtalk.org