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10 Surprisingly Healthy Grits Recipes That You’ll Love

If you grew up in the South, chances are grits were a regular at the breakfast table.

They were probably also slathered in butter, milk, and cheese, which makes for a delicious but high-calorie treat.

As you’ll see with these recipes, though, grits are far more versatile and can be far more “diet friendly” than many people think.

Sure, they can replace your breakfast oatmeal, but they can also become veggie-infused entrees, spicy side dishes, and simple snacks.

So, if you want to work grits into your mornings, try the Honey Nut Breakfast Grits, if you want something “green and lean,” check out the Creamy Vegan Grits with Garlic Chips & Green, and if you want a high-protein main meal, give the Smothered Southern Chicken with Parmesan Grits a go.

Enjoy!

Healthy Shrimp & Grits

Serves 3

Shrimp is a lean protein, so there are ways to alter shrimp and grits so it’s not a heavy entrée. This recipe uses sausage, white wine, and two kinds of cheese to add plenty of flavor. That means you don’t need much butter to make this dish delicious. And you can choose reduced-fat cream cheese and cheddar, as well as turkey andouille sausage, for a skinnier version of shrimp and grits.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

720

Calories

35 g

Protein

60 g

Carbs

37 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 cup stone-ground grits

4 cups chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tsp. butter

1 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar

1/3 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup seafood stock

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb. andouille sausage, chopped into tiny pieces

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts

1 large clove garlic, minced

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Plain Southern Grits

Serves 8

There are lots of ways to doctor grits, including cheese and butter, but to start you need a basic recipe. Like most grains, grits can be cooked in almost any liquid. Water works, of course, or you can substitute milk or broth for more flavor. Then pick your seasonings, like a simple bay leaf. To serve, add a squeeze of lemon, a dash of hot sauce, and some butter or cheese.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

89

Calories

1 g

Protein

9 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 cups grits

8 cups water

3 bay leaves

Salt to taste

1 lemon

1/4 cup butter (or to taste)

Hot sauce, for serving

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Spicy Shrimp with Polenta Medallions

Serves 6

If you don’t feel like making grits from scratch, you can still enjoy this classic Southern dinner. Polenta cakes are used in this recipe to create the flavor of shrimp and grits with less work. Just slice the polenta about one-inch thick, and fry in a skillet. Once the grit cakes are done, you can use the same pan to cook the shrimp. This makes for an easy, healthy meal with minimal clean-up.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

320

Calories

18 g

Protein

34 g

Carbs

13 g

Fat

Ingredients

Polenta Medallions:

1 tube polenta, cut into 12 slices

1/3 cup canola oil

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

Shrimp:

1 lb. extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 Tbsp. fennel seeds

2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Pinch of salt

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Honey Nut Breakfast Grits

Serves 4

Not all grits have to be savory. These sweet grits are made with honey and almonds, so it’s perfect for breakfast in place of your regular bowl of cereal. It’s also a good alternative if you want a warm winter breakfast, but are tired of oatmeal. You can add in some of the same mix-ins like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or fresh berries.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

78

Calories

4 g

Protein

9 g

Carbs

3 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 cups skim milk

1 cup water

1 cup stone-ground grits

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. pure honey

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted

1/8 tsp. almond extract

4 tsp. pure honey

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Creamy Vegan Grits with Garlic Chips & Greens

Serves 4

Grits tend to be plain without a touch of cheese or butter. But the good news is it’s possible to make delicious vegan grits too. These have olive oil in place of butter, plus cashews to make the result rich and creamy. One taste is enough proof that you don’t need dairy to ensure Southern grits have soul. This healthy recipe is by Bryant Terry, author of Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

331

Calories

11 g

Protein

25 g

Carbs

23 g

Fat

Ingredients

Grits:

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water at least 3 hours

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

Coarse sea salt to taste

1 quart vegetable broth, divided

3/4 cup yellow grits

Greens:

1 lb. dandelion greens (or kale, arugula, or spinach), torn into bite-sized pieces

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt

3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Get the Recipe

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Healthy Fish & Sweet Potato Grits

Serves 6

If you don’t like shrimp, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn grits into a whole meal. This healthy dinner uses fish, so each serving has nearly 50 grams of protein. Red snapper has a medium flavor and firm texture, so you can sub in halibut, grouper, catfish, or mahi mahi instead. And for the side dish, you’re getting two-in-one with sweet potatoes and grits.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

514

Calories

47 g

Protein

20 g

Carbs

30 g

Fat

Ingredients

Fish:

1 1/2 lbs. red snapper, boned

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Creole seasoning to taste

2 cups sliced red cabbage

1 small onion, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sweet Potato Grits:

3 cups water

1 cup milk

3 Tbsp. butter

1 large sweet potato, roasted

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

1 cup grits

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional garnish)

3 Tbsp. grated cheddar or gouda (optional)

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Green Green Grits

Serves 4

Grits are already healthy with all the nutritional benefits of corn, including fiber, folate, and the amino acid leusine, which can help your body store glycogen AKA muscle fuel. And compared to oatmeal, a bowl of grits has fewer calories and less fat. So they’re already a smart addition to your diet, especially for endurance athletes, and you can make them even healthier by adding fresh greens.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

138

Calories

5 g

Protein

14 g

Carbs

8 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 bunch collard greens (or kale)

1 large green onion

4 cups water

1 cup milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)

1 cup grits

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Loaded Slow-Cooker Grits

Serves 6

Worried you won’t be able to make creamy grits on the stove? Turn on your slow cooker instead for this foolproof grits recipe. And the additional ingredients – bacon, cheddar, and green onion – are inspired by loaded baked potatoes. If you choose to use turkey bacon instead, that’ll lower the fat by 8 grams per serving, which also reduces calories to just 120.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

202

Calories

12 g

Protein

7 g

Carbs

14 g

Fat

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups grits

6 cups water

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbed

1 cup (about 4 oz.) shredded cheddar

Salt to freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. butter

3 green onions, sliced

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Smothered Southern Chicken with Parmesan Grits

Serves 2

Worried you won’t be able to make creamy grits on the stove? Turn on your slow cooker instead for this foolproof grits recipe. And the additional ingredients – bacon, cheddar, and green onion – are inspired by loaded baked potatoes. If you choose to use turkey bacon instead, that’ll lower the fat by 8 grams per serving, which also reduces calories to just 120.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

679

Calories

73 g

Protein

19 g

Carbs

35 g

Fat

Ingredients

Smothered Chicken:

2 large chicken breasts (about 6 oz. each), pounded to an even thickness

Cajun seasoning to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 jumbo sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 oz. sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 green onion, chopped

Parmesan Grits:

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Dash of salt

1/2 cup quick-cooking corn grits

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan

1 Tbsp. butter

Get the Recipe

Honey Nut Breakfast Grits

Serves 4

Not all grits have to be savory. These sweet grits are made with honey and almonds, so it’s perfect for breakfast in place of your regular bowl of cereal. It’s also a good alternative if you want a warm winter breakfast, but are tired of oatmeal. You can add in some of the same mix-ins like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or fresh berries.

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

296

Calories

9 g

Protein

55 g

Carbs

6 g

Fat

Ingredients

2 cups skim milk

1 cup water

1 cup stone-ground grits

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. pure honey

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted

1/8 tsp. almond extract

4 tsp. pure honey

Get the Recipe

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