Less sodium, altered recipes can lead to healthier life

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/09/2018 08:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, prepares vegetables for a vegetarian minestrone soup at the tribe’s Food Distribution demo kitchen in Tahlequah. Keeley stresses that there are healthier ways to make foods, with the first step being to either limit or cut salt completely. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Prepared mashed cauliflower potatoes sit in a pot at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution demo kitchen in Tahlequah. Mark Keeley, a CN clinical dietitian, prepared the dish using a head of cauliflower, two potatoes and a small portion of salted butter. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A pot of vegetarian minestrone soup sits ready to serve at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution demo kitchen. CN clinical dietitian Mark Keeley prepared the soup in his efforts to introduce people to healthier entrée options. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Making meal alterations such as using less salt or taking it out completely can lead to a healthier life for most people. Even making simple changes to old favorites such as mashed potatoes can lead people down a healthier path.

Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, said while working with Native Americans he’s stressed that salt doesn’t need to be added to food and could adversely affect a person’s health.

“Salt will retain fluid on your body…that fluid is going to take up lung space. So now you’re trying to breathe around lungs that are trying to fill up,” he said. “If your heart’s not able to pump as well as it used to then the slower your blood stream moves the more some of that salty water will leak off into your ankles and legs, and so now you’re carrying weight around and it kind of waterlogs your system.”

Keeley said he’s had people tell him that they salt their food even before tasting it.

“People have told me, ‘Here’s what I used to do. I use to salt food before I even tasted it and salt it heavy and then taste it.’ Then they say, ‘I don’t do salt anymore.’ I come across a lot more people that tell me that. Those folks are becoming more common, but there’s room for work,” he said.

For people who monitor their blood sugar levels, Keeley said he recommends mashed cauliflower potatoes.

“As a dietitian that’s been working around diabetes for a long time, people want food to taste good, but they don’t want it to blow their blood sugar out of the water, so the cauliflower is basically a…non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetable,” he said.

By combining the cauliflower and potatoes, Keeley said a healthier version of mashed potatoes is created. “It actually has…a slightly different flavor. So cooking them up together and mashing them together, a little butter in there for seasoning and…it’s still satisfying, still has potatoes in it, but it doesn’t have the effect after the meal that you don’t like seeing.”

Keeley said the dish typically takes 30 minutes to make, which includes preparation and cook time, and consists of a head of cauliflower, two potatoes and a small portion of salted butter. The butter acts as the dish’s only form of salt.

“It’s not a high time investment meal,” he said. “You do need enough water to pretty near cover the vegetables. It’ll get them soft quicker, ready for the mashing. You could drain it completely or just leave a small amount of water in the bottom. The butter was salted butter. It was the salt (for the recipe) in this case. There was no other salt in it.”

When changing a recipe such as adding cauliflower and removing a bulk of the potatoes, Keeley said the first step is to “decide” if this is something that people want to pursue for a healthier lifestyle.

“The tricks of the trade is one thing, but the first step is to decide. To make the decision, ‘I’m going to do what it takes to get better and stay better,’” he said. “Once people are determined they’ll figure it out. They’ll come up with their own ways to do it.”

Keeley suggests another way to get on a healthier eating track is portion control. “One thing we can always do is we can down portion anything. So if something is pretty stout, pretty sweet, pretty salty, you can eat less of it.”

For more information on meal alterations, visit http://cherokeepublichealth.org/about-cherokee-nation-public-health/

Recipe for turkey stew or minestrone soup


2 pounds of ground dark turkey meat

3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic

2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning

3 carrots, thinly sliced

1 large chopped onion

1 small head of chopped cabbage

2 14-ounce cans dies tomatoes

1 14-ounce can of kidney beans

1 14-ounce can of great northern beans

1 32-35 ounce container of chicken broth


1. Brown meat in a heavy pot on high heat, stirring constantly

2. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, carrots and onions. Stir until vegetables start to soften

3. Add tomatoes, beans and broth

4. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes

5. Serve

Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Mark Keeley suggests when adding the canned products it’s best to drain them to reduce the amount of salt in the meal.


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