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By: Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation   Date: 12/20/11

I love food . . . and, growing up in West Virginia, I especially love Southern food! This past weekend, I had an amazing opportunity to enjoy Southern cuisine at Bon Appétit magazine’s Best New Restaurant in America: Husk Restaurant, which is located in a beautiful historic house in Charleston, South Carolina.

Husk made me feel right at home when I noticed an appetizer of grilled crostinis with pimento cheese, country ham, and pickled West Virginia ramps on the menu. Noting some of my previous blog posts on “Understanding Our Food” and various Farm to Fork resources, there could not be a more perfect example of food processing using southern ingredients – including ramps – for this West Virginia girl! Needless to say, I had a most delicious meal.

While on the topic of celebrating Southern food, the International Food Information Council Foundation was delighted to form a special partnership with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) this year. SoFAB is a nonprofit living history dedicated to the discovery, understanding, and celebration of food, drink, and the related culture of the South. It also is one of Saveur Magazine’s "5 Great Museums Devoted to Food" (and is the only one located in the U.S.). If you’re ever in New Orleans, you should visit SoFAB and also introduce yourself to the museum’s president and director, Liz Williams and also check out her "From the Pantry" blog series.   

Liz and I first met in May when she invited me to speak at their first SoFAB Roundtable: “Advances Against Obesity: Key Perspectives and Insights.” During the roundtable, I highlighted how the South compares to the rest of the U.S. in key IFIC Foundation 2011 Food and Health Survey findings. Although the South has a high rate of obesity, Southerners are:

•More likely than those from the Midwest and West to say that several factors, including total calories, reduced fat, and reduced sugar, are important when thinking about meals ordered in a restaurant.

•Extremely concerned about their weight at a higher percentage (24%) than those in the Northeast (18%), Midwest (21%), and West (18%).

•Significantly more likely to be looking for a health symbol or icon on foods and beverages, suggesting they are looking for a convenient identifier for healthier choices.

•Significantly more interested in cutting back on foods and drinks with added sugars or caloric sweeteners (57% vs. 45% from the Northeast, 47% from the Midwest, and 45% from the West).

•Although no more concerned about sodium compared to other regions, Southerners do say they purchase more specific foods because of reduced sodium than both those in the Northeast and Midwest.

Because the IFIC Foundation is dedicated to helping consumers, including Southerners, take action to promote healthy, active lifestyles, we worked in partnership with SoFAB to ensure that their “Kid’s Fun Page” included online games, so that parents and kids have creative ways to exercise right at home.  In addition to these games, our IFIC Foundation’s Healthy Kids and Families webpage provides a variety of resources, including healthful recipe ideas, a Real-Life Guide for Parents, and a lesson-based curriculum Leader’s Guide for educators and health professionals.

Being from the South is a wonderful thing and the food is worth celebrating. But I also hope that, as our 2011 Food and Health Survey data reflect, Southerners continue to empower themselves with information so that they can both enjoy food and follow good energy balance practices.  A healthful life that includes delicious indulgences, such as my dinner at Husk, is possible if it also is balanced with exercise and other good dietary practices.

Author’s Note:  As part of the IFIC Foundation’s Guiding Principles, we do not speak for, or represent, any company, industry, product or brand.  My experience at the above mentioned restaurant was a personal experience and paid for with my personal funds.



1 comment(s) so far...

Re: Celebrating Our Food – Southern Style

As a fellow prideful Southern, I appreciated your thoughtful post on how traditional southern fare can be part of a healthy diet. Often we consider indulgent foods like one of my favorites chicken and pastry to be off-limits if we're committed to eating a "healthy diet". But like everything else, a healthy diet is about balance and variety, and there's plenty of room for occasional grilled crostinis with pimento cheese and country ham!

Thank you for spotlighting the food that's so close to my heart!

By Amber Mosher on   Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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