Healthy Southern Greens

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A Southern side dish with a healthy spin.

healthy southern greens recipe

Smokey, slightly salty, rich goodness! Southern food doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being the healthiest. But everyone should include more dark, leafy greens in their diets and this healthy southern greens recipe does just the trick. We cut the calories, but not the flavor, in your favorite Southern side dish: collard greens.

Collard greens, which have long been a staple in the South, have become the new “it” vegetable. Recipes have popped up all over the internet, using these nutritious leaves in wraps, coleslaws and salads. Try our Hummus and Vegetable Collard Green Wraps. Collard greens grow best in cooler temperatures and the peak season is January through April.

Not from the South?

southern greens recipe

Then you might be as clueless as I was about this Southern classic. The collard green plant has dark green leaves and tough stems, and is included in the same family as kale, turnip greens and mustard greens. Collard greens are rich in vitamin K, with a stunning 1,045%  of the recommended daily allowance of the vitamin in one cooked cup! Vitamin K contributes to strong bones, healthy arteries, and regulation of the clotting of your blood.

Collard greens also are an excellent source vitamin A, C, E, folate, manganese, and calcium, and a good source of other B vitamins. They also have high levels of antioxidants, can help reduce inflammation, are low in calories and high in soluble fiber. Collard greens also have more calcium per serving than kale and double the amount of protein and iron.

These Healthy Southern Greens Recipe Are Full of Southern Flavor!

healthy side dish
Prepare the collard greens by first removing the stems. Pull them off by hand or cut them out with a knife. Wash the leaves in a very large bowl of water or clean sink filled with water, allowing the soot from the greens to sink to the bottom of the container. Repeat by cleaning the container, and re-submerging in clean water. To test a leaf for no grit, simply bite into one. Never dump the leaves into a strainer with the water, or the leaves will get dirty.

The key to a pot of these healthy southern greens, or any kind of collard greens for that matter, is to create a savory broth to slowly simmer the collards in. We’ve used lots of onion, garlic, and don’t forget the maple syrup to achieve the rich flavor we’re creating. Traditionally, ham hocks (pork legs) are used, providing smokiness and making the greens more tender. We’ve reduced the fat content of this recipe by using turkey ham!

What if I don’t eat meat?

healthy southern recipe

While we think the turkey meat provides great flavor, there are vegetarian and vegan-friendly ways to create that depth. I love adding 1 tablespoon liquid smoke right at the end to get that smokiness. Alternatively, you could use whole dried chipotle chiles or ancho chiles.

This healthy collard greens side dish is a great addition to any meal really. Use a slotted spoon to serve on a plate. Equally, serve in individual side dish bowls with the broth, traditionally called Pot Likker, and dip cornbread, corn muffins, or other biscuits into the broth, as is traditional. If you want to save the cooking liquid for later, cool it to room temperature and then freeze it to use for stocks or to make beans in. Yum!

Feeling green? Check out our 21 Yummy Ways to Eat More Greens post. If you’re after more cleaner Southern-inspired side dishes, we love these Slow Cooker Southern Style Green Beans.

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Healthy Southern Greens

This collard green recipe delivers healthy comfort food right to your plate. You'll get a taste of the South with the smokey flavors in this side dish.
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 4
Serving Size 2 cups
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Southern


  • 2 pounds collard greens stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/4 pound turkey ham chopped into 1" pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • 1 yellow onion chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth or stock
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup


  • Place all ingredients in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until greens are tender.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 2cups | Calories: 190kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 770mg | Potassium: 645mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 12626IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 559mg | Iron: 2mg |
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 4
Keywords Low-Carb, Quick and Easy

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Chef Sallie

Chef Sallie is a personal chef, recipe developer, cookbook author, and culinary instructor. She specializes in providing healthy meals for athletes, designed to prevent injury, promote healing and provide fuel for peak athletic performance. Her recipes are designed to use seasonal, whole ingredients. Her in-home and virtual cooking classes show her clients which ingredients can be used to help treat specific health issues and improve their quality of life. She is dedicated to the idea that delicious, healthy meals can be easily prepared and accessible regardless of budget.

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