Greens and black-eyed peas

5 good-for-you Southern holiday traditions


December 23, 2015

We’ve rounded up some Southern customs actually beneficial to your health. Enjoy!

Usually we associate the holidays with extra calories, especially Southern dishes loaded with butter, cream, sugar or fat, but these tasty seasonal traditions are guilt-free.


Receiving an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning is a tradition dating back to when fruit was hard to come by in rural areas. Until nonperishable foods could be transported quickly, citrus was an expensive treat to be savored. Citrus is a great way to get a little extra vitamin C, which might help you stave off the common cold.


The custom of eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve can be traced back to different cultures — from Irish to Native American traditions. Oysters harvested in winter are fat and large,  thanks to cooler Gulf waters. That’s why they are a staple this time of year and perfect in a stew or a savory oyster dressing. Oysters are low in calories and provide a nice dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart; and zinc, which can help maintain hormone levels and boost the immune system.


Pecan orchards are plentiful in the South, and growers harvest the favored nut October through December. They’re included in everything from salads to desserts (some of them healthy) during the holiday season. Pecans are packed with vitamins and minerals including magnesium, which has anti-inflammatory benefits. They also provide a little extra protein to your diet.


This salad (or dessert) — often sliced oranges and pecans layered with grated coconut and a little sugar — is a favorite at Southern holiday meals. Ambrosia likely originated in the South and gained popularity in the late 1800s when people had wider access to the then-considered-exotic coconut. Coconut adds zinc and iron to your diet, which can help fight fatigue.

Black-eyed peas

Need some luck? In the South, legend has it that consuming black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good fortune. Add some collard greens to your plate for prosperity. The black-eyed peas are loaded with fiber, and the greens are rich in vitamin K (good for bone health) and vitamin A (good for your skin). What a great way to kick off a new year!

Do you have a favorite healthy holiday tradition? Share in the comments! And if your holiday fare has been more naughty than nutritious, balance the (temporarily) poor diet with lots of water, and some exercise.