The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

July 28, 2015 | Oldways Table

A running joke among the Oldways staff is that I have become a “professional bridesmaid,” and with this honor come many celebrations and parties. Because the Mediterranean Diet has had such an impact on my life, when I take the reins as the planner for these types of parties, I am able to incorporate a healthy twist.

But many times, when I am not at the party planning helm, it is a challenge to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout all the celebrations. Thankfully, the Mediterranean Diet is a complete lifestyle and not a fad diet and is here to guide me. Following a Mediterranean lifestyle has taught me about moderation and the healthy, wholesome foods that I can eat and enjoy all the time and, the great news is that it also includes sweets and treats at the top of the pyramid, to be enjoyed (albeit less often) with friends and family. 

With all the showers, bachelorettes, weddings (and now even baby showers!) I have to navigate, it is important to have a plan. Here are a few tips I use to enjoy all these events while avoiding overindulging:

  1. Don’t be hangry! Make sure you don’t arrive at a functions starving. I have found the hungrier I am, the less self control I have when making food choices at parties. Try to have a small snack before you arrive so you aren’t ravenously raiding the spread.
  2. Eat Whole Grains! With whole grains gaining popularity and the health benefits becoming more well known, I have noticed more grain salads popping up as part of party spreads. They are delicious and a great way to fill up and feel satiated without going to overboard.
  3. Stick to seafood! When eaten in its purist form, seafood is a naturally low-calorie food. Oysters, lobsters, crab, clams all pop up at summer parties and if they aren’t fried or mixed with heavy sauces, they can be a great option.
  4. Look for veggies! I’m not saying you have to ditch the chips and crackers all together, but if you fill your plate with crudités and try to fill up on them before hitting the rest of the buffet, you can reserve your splurges for the special treats.
  5. Fruit for dessert! In the summer months especially, fruits are so juicy and enticing that you hardly ever need anything else to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you can’t resist the sweets, make sure you are indulging in things that are worth it to you.
  6. Stay hydrated! Make sure you stay hydrated to gauge your real hunger. In moderation, wine is a healthy component of the Mediterranean Diet, but be sure to keep it to a couple glasses at these events and drink water or other hydrating beverages.

With all this being said, it is important to remember that the Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle that stresses the importance of enjoying food and wine with family and friends. Life is too short to restrict yourself completely, but make sure you are mindful of your intake if you are a perpetual party-goer like me!


July 23, 2015 | Oldways Table

As Sarah and I pulled up to Bartram’s Garden, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard about Chris Bolden Newsome, the garden manager, through the Agroecology community and was very excited to meet him. When we pulled into the parking lot the first thing we saw the farm stand. The garden and farm-stand work closely with the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI), one of Oldways ATOAH partners, supporting AUNI’s school-based program that encourages West Philadelphia students to grow, cook, consume and sell healthy foods.  As we approached the farm stand, we were told about The Rebel Bar, which is a whole grain granola bar made from organic, local ingredients. The creators of these delicious bars are youth entrepreneurs who garden at Bartram’s and call themselves The Rebel Ventures. They are a group of young people concerned about the health and the quality of food in their community. You can find these nutritious, tasty bars at various Philly grocers, wellness centers, and markets, including Bartram's Farm Stand. 

After supporting the farm stand and introducing ourselves to Chris, Shivon who was our official AUNI tour guide, asked Chris to show us the garden. We got back in the car and drove down a windy path to the garden. First, we approached the community garden. There was an older woman from the south who was enjoying gardening with her young grandson.  Her and Chris’s relationship seemed to be very genuine and long-standing. Chris told us about the community garden and the orchard of trees that were yet to bloom. Then he walked us over to the garden. It contained rows and rows of typical eastcoast crops, but a section of the farm is solely dedicated to the African Diaspora, a beautiful example of intentional African heritage (re)connection.

This African Heritage garden at Bartram's uses a traditional cropping method, where crops are grown on mounds, rather than in rows. I’ve only read about this style of garden, so it was touching to see one in person.  Food is grown in a mixed crop system, strategically planting compatible plants next to one another.  In a cyclical fashion, Farmer Chris planted the crops so as to represent the geographical and historical path of African diaspora foodways, starting with West African bitter leaf, sorghum, and various melons.  Okra, reflecting its central prominence in traditional African cuisine was found in the center mounds. While various beans and peas, like black-eyed peas, which are staples in the American South, end the journey through this edible map of history.

I stood there for a while, emotionally and mentally moved by all Chris shared with us. What does it mean to honor your ancestors through a garden? What does it mean for us to then eat the nutritious traditional foods our ancestors ate? This seems to me to be a beautiful way to pay homage to those who came before us that we do and do not know. I’m so grateful to have seen such an example and I hope that it inspires others to find various ways to reconnect with their ancestral past. I thank AUNI, Shivon and Chris for all that they do and their hospitality! If you are every in Philly stop by and support the farm-stand, the youth, the community gardeners and Farmer Chris!

The Bartram Farm Stand is open weekly through the growing season, while the farm itself is open to the public and free year-round, dawn to dusk, except on City-observed holidays. The farm is located at 5400 Lindbergh Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19143, a busy main road, easily accessible to many commuters throughout the day.

To find out more go head on over to Bartram Garden's website


July 21, 2015 | Oldways Table

Research shows over and over that traditional patterns of eating, whether Mediterranean, Asian, Latino, or African heritage, are much healthier than the typical Western diet of highly-processed foods. These traditional food cultures are primarily plant-based, featuring lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts, seeds and legumes* with smaller portions of lean meats and fish included.

One dish that is shared by these cultures is the simple combination of rice and beans. Herbs, spices, and the type of bean used are what make it unique to each cuisine, as well as how they’re eaten together. In dishes throughout the Caribbean and South America, beans and rice are often served separately on the plate. In Africa, the beans and rice are usually cooked together in the same pot. Either way, we say, “Yum!”

Here at Oldways, we’re big fans of legumes, and when you think about them, who wouldn’t be? They’ve been part of food history since the beginning of agriculture and are economical, very nutritious, and quite versatile. An added bonus is that they’re a highly sustainable crop. Lentils, for example, are easy on the land. They need little water and draw nitrogen from the air to fertilize themselves. And, when they’re harvested, there’s still enough nitrogen left in the ground to sustain the next plant!

There are thousands of varieties of legumes and we’re finding more and more of them available in grocery stores and farmers markets. Next time you’re shopping, take a tour of the beans in your market; check the bulk bins where you’ll find dried beans, look in the canned foods aisle as well as the frozen foods section. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to pair them with herbs and spices this resource can help. (It also includes ways to prepare and cook dried beans.)

To learn more about the migration of people and how it influenced the foods of Latin America and Africa, check out our July toolkit, “Latin American and African Heritage Diets.” We explore the history and cuisines of these two traditional food cultures, and include four easy and flavorful recipes that anyone can make and enjoy.

*Legumes include beans, peas and lentils.


July 16, 2015 | Oldways Table

These days it sometimes feels like life can get away from you. Between juggling all of your daily responsibilities, finding time to eat can fall pretty far down the list. More often, you hear that people just don’t have time to cook or to plan for meals in advance. Creating a plan, composing a shopping list, getting to and from the store, fighting the crowds in the aisles and checkout, and then prepping and cooking the items you’ve purchased can seem overwhelming. Many people will opt for an easy out, and end up existing on fast food or pre-packaged processed items that are less than nutritious. We’ve all been there. Where is your own personal super nutritionist when you need them?

Well, I’ve found my super nutritionist! In fact, today marks my 50th day using the plant-based meal delivery service Lighter to prepare real, wholesome meals each week. Lighter is working to challenge the Standard American Diet (SAD) and celebrate real food - and there is a reason for celebration. Like many working adults, I was struggling to find time to plan and prepare real food, and found myself either picking up something on the go, relying on processed snacks, or just skipping meals altogether. By joining the Lighter community, I’ve not only saved time, energy, and (a lot!) of money but feel so much healthier eating real fresh food consistently.

My meals take less than 30 minutes to prepare and are packed with organic fruits and vegetables, a variety of whole grains, and generous portion sizes – my “9 meals” usually give me enough food to cover almost all lunches and dinners for the entire week. Amazingly, my weekly food budget has dropped 50% by eliminating eating and shopping at random. The meals break down to between $3.75-$5.50 per serving – nothing’s cheaper when you factor in time saved! The groceries are delivered right to my door at a designated time I choose every week, allowing me to regain that time spent in the market and avoid the all-too-common “temptation shopping” I would often fall prey to. Lighter has three customizable plans to choose from, each including healthy, whole foods and creative recipes. The one caveat is that you have to be open-minded, as you do not get to choose the recipes you are sent each week. I’m an adventurous eater, and have loved nearly everything I’ve been sent, so this risk is worth the reward for me -- no guesswork and no stress.

Two other very popular services include Blue Apron and Plated. Friends who have used these services have told me they’ve been very pleased with their results.  Blue Apron sets you up similarly with creative meals that take around 30 minutes to prepare. The difference here is that you get to choose your meals ahead of time and are sent pre-measured, pre-packaged ingredients rather than typical full-package groceries. The price is a bit steeper, at $60 for 3 meals-for-two per week or $10 per serving. Their plans are less customizable, only offering two options but give you more freedom in choosing your menu. The menu consists of healthy real food options packed with fresh vegetables and whole grains, including some more out-of-the-box items like Squid Ink Linguine. Plated is another local favorite I’ve heard much about. Recipes begin at $12 per plate and weekly price depends on how many recipes you choose (a minimum of 2 per week, maximum of 4). Again you get to see what the menu will be before hand, and an added bonus of Plated is that they offer a dessert plate option to add to your weekly plan. One advantage of both of these plans is that you do not have to be home to receive the deliveries, as they come in refrigerated boxes – another time saving advantage.

The good news is that meal delivery service companies have recently made a huge splash around the dinner table. There are now numerous companies to choose from, all touting their own unique spin on making your life easier in terms of healthy dining. On top of the major convenience of saving time planning and cooking, these services make it easier to stay on a set budget while eating healthy whole foods and learning a little something in the kitchen.

Meal delivery services have changed the way we think about cooking. Preparing home-cooked meals is now an enjoyable experience rather than a chore. I feel much healthier eating real food consistently and more confident in my skills in the kitchen. If you’re still unsure about fully committing, each company offers free test recipes either on their blog or as an email subscription as a starting point - that’s how I got started!

If you’ve tried any of these services, or another I didn’t mention, tell us about it. We’d love to hear how transitioning into a healthy whole foods diet works for you!



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