Welcome to another entry in our “Oklahoma Favorite Foods Made Healthier” series, where we tweak some of Oklahoma’s favorite comfort foods so you can enjoy them in a better-for-you way. You’ll still get the great flavor that made the foods favorites in the first place, but limit the parts (like grease, lard, bad fats and refined sugar) that aren’t so healthy. Small changes like the tweaks in these recipes can eventually produce big results and help build momentum to establish other healthy food habits.
Everyone knows Oklahomans love their fried okra. In fact, it’s featured (along with corn and squash) as one of only three vegetables in Oklahoma’s official state meal. But since it’s often fried in bacon drippings, frying oil and Crisco, fried okra definitely isn’t healthy. It’s loaded with saturated fats and trans fats, which raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This recipe for “oven-fried” okra, from the American Heart Association, is trans fat-free. We guarantee it will pass muster with even the pickiest fried okra lovers!
Canola oil cooking spray
1 20-ounce bag frozen sliced okra, thawed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups yellow corn meal (only a half-cup actually adheres to the okra)
Preheat oven to 475. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil generously with cooking spray. Set aside.
Spray the inside of a gallon-sized food storage bag with cooking spray. Add the okra, a half-teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Close the bag and shake to blend everything well. Let the okra rest for ten minutes to extract juice from the okra.
Add the cornmeal to the bag and shake vigorously to coat the okra. Let the bag sit for ten minutes, then shake it up again.
Using a wide mesh strainer or a colander over a large bowl, remove the okra in batches and shake off excess cornmeal into the bowl, discarding the leftover meal.
Place the coated okra on the sheet pan and continue the process until all the okra is on the pan and the pieces are not touching each other. Spray the okra well with cooking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the okra, trying to turn over as many pieces as possible.
Lightly spray them again. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and lightly spray the pieces again.
Nutritional Analysis: 70 calories, 0.5 g total fat (no saturated fat, no trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 197 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugars and 3 g protein.