COOK OF THE WEEK: Itawamba County woman finds small portions key to weight loss

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

When Claudette Pounders had three children at home to cook for, she was constantly in the kitchen whipping up their favorite meals.
But now that the kids are grown and gone with families of their own, she’s limited her cooking to just two or three times a week. And part of the reason she spends less time in the kitchen can be directly attributed to a diet she and her husband, Kenneth, began a couple of years ago.
“We eat cereal for breakfast, I fix something for lunch, and then we have popcorn and an apple for supper,” said Pounders, 69, who lives in the Bounds community halfway between Tremont and Red Bay, Ala. “After we started this, I found I didn’t care to cook anymore at night. I guess I got out of the habit.”
The lunch meals Pounders makes are also prepared with an eye toward healthfulness. The couple eats lots of salads and sometimes, they’ll add some grilled chicken or a grilled hamburger steak to the meal.
“Every once in a while, we’ll have a baked potato,” Pounders said. So far, she’s lost 42 pounds and kept it off.
Staying on the diet isn’t always easy, especially when the couple is traveling. The past two big trips they’ve been on were to visit the West. This coming fall, they plan to travel the East Coast to Maine.
“We’ve learned to stay away from buffets,” she said. “But sometimes, we can’t avoid the ice cream shop.”
When any of Pounders’ children or grandchildren visit, though, the diet regimen pretty much goes out the window. On these special occasions, she prepares her family’s favorites and just watches her portion sizes.
“A Sunday meal with the kids here might mean baked pork tenderloin, Ro-Tel Chicken, baked ham, English peas, garden peas, corn, mashed potatoes and my 4-Layer Lemon Dessert,” she said. “When I make red beans and rice, I actually have to cook three things: red beans and rice, potato soup, and chili, because there are those who don’t care for red beans and rice.”
Pounders, who retired in 2003 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where she was a lock operator in Fulton, said she learned to cook from her father, Claude Russell. Her mother, Ethel, worked outside the home and her dad was a farmer, so he took the lead role in the culinary department.
“We always had a meal prepared for her when she got home every day,” Pounders said. “I learned meats and vegetables from him. I learned desserts from my mother. And after eating canned biscuits for a while after I married, I taught myself to make homemade biscuits.”
Pounders said she loves to try new recipes and often clips them out of the newspaper. She also likes to get ideas from stars on the Food Network.
“I like Rachael Ray,” she said. “And I know I shouldn’t, but I like Paula Deen. She’s so fattening. We went to her restaurant in Savannah, Ga., when we were on vacation at Hilton Head, S.C., last fall. She wasn’t there, though. She was actually in Oxford at a book signing.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to

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