An African-American Food Pyramid?

food pyramid

( — To help African Americans improve their health and eating habits, Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization along with an advisory team of experts, recently unveiled The African Heritage Diet Pyramid.

The pyramid draws from the culinary traditions of the American South, the Caribbean, South America and Africa, and shows familiar vegetables like okra and eggplant and fruits like papaya, as well as beans and meats. And unlike other food pyramids, it has a prominent layer devoted entirely to greens: collards, chard, kale and spinach — all foods of Africa and the diaspora regions of the Americas.

As high fat and sugar-loaded foods have come to dominate the modern diet, health and nutrition have deteriorated in communities around the world. But “African-Americans are disproportionately affected by several major chronic diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and obesity,” Oldways President Sara Baer-Sinnott tells The Salt.

The new African heritage food pyramid is one of several diet pyramids that Oldways has designed to target specific cultural groups. The idea is that generally, people are more likely to adopt recommendations if they are put into the context of foods they actually eat. The heritage angle is also a way to encourage people to try new things their ancestors might have eaten, and avoid diseases their ancestors never had.

“Eating a traditional African Heritage Diet (or other traditional plant-based diet) and staying physically active will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the risk of these chronic diseases,” says Baer-Sinnott.

There are, of course, a lot of reasons why it can be hard to switch to a more healthful diet, but Baer-Sinnott says it’s mainly just a matter of educating people about their food heritage. And so the group has plans to get the word out by talking to dieticians and doctors. Oldways is also working with the United Negro College Fund to jump-start African heritage cooking clubs and with faith-based groups to organize potluck suppers.

The U.S. government has its own set of guidelines for how Americans should eat. Back in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled MyPlate, an overhaul of the often criticized MyPyramid. The colorful plate icon has been lauded as a simpler, clearer way of communicating how to balance the five food groups.

For more on easy ways to incorporate the foods you love into the healthy lifestyle you NEED, please visit the African Heritage Diet Pyramid here.


How To Indulge At Holiday Parties

A tape measure wrapped around a white plate against a red checkered background( — From now until New Year’s, it’s a season of eating, drinking and, well, more eating and drinking. And worrying about how all those extra calories will translate into extra pounds the next time you dare to step on the scale. Relax. It doesn’t have to be another holiday of nail biting between nibbling, experts say. All you need is the proper attitude and proven strategies that work to keep your calories-in, calories-out equation balanced. Your Brain is Your Best Ally Anyone who’s fought with the scale over the holidays (or shoved it under the bed) knows the basic tricks: Drink water or eat an apple before heading out to a party. Or say, “No, thank you,” nicely but firmly, when Aunt Hattie offers you a giant piece of pecan pie a la mode for the fifth time. But other strategies and perspectives may be new to you. “Perspective is key during the holiday season,” said Jeannie Moloo, a registered dietitian in Roseville, Calif., and an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. “It’s not the best time of year for weight loss. Focus instead on maintaining a healthy weight, not on losing.” Keep that focus when you’re faced with a huge buffet or Mom’s homemade cooking, added Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and director of sports medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t give free rein to your gastronomic impulses, either. “You can enjoy everything, but cut it by a third,” Bonci said. “Instead of having three cookies, have two. Instead of a two-inch slice of pie, try for about a one-and-a-half inch slice. Instead of a big scoop of both stuffing and potatoes, have a half scoop of each.” And don’t forget the “calories-out” part of the equation. “Always look for opportunities to move. Make sure getting some daily physical activity during the holidays remains a priority,” Moloo said. “It can be challenging with shorter days and hectic schedules to keep physical activity on the calendar, but now is not the time to go sedentary.” Good for You, Good for Others If you have young kids, you can build physical activity into your day by suggesting a walk to the park or a snowman-building contest or other winter fun. Or you might buddy up with a co-worker and hit the health club or a walking path at least three times a week, after work or during lunch. You can manage those holiday parties, too, Bonci said, whether you’re the host or the guest. As the hostess, she said, “There don’t have to be cookies in every room in your house. Set up ‘no eating’ zones.” Your guests will probably thank you, at least silently. It’ll give them a chance to avoid temptation and focus on socializing and friendships. And not everything has to be sugary to be festive. “Use fresh fruit for edible holiday decorations,” said Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Fill large glass bowls or baskets with washed, fresh fruits.” Portion Control, Patience and Preparation If you know you’ll be tempted with endless party buffets or tables full of family favorites, refresh your memory ahead of time about proper portion sizes, Moloo said. “Portion size is key to managing weight, especially during the holidays,” Moloo said. “A few tips to keep in mind: Keep protein servings [such as your meat dish] to the size of the palm of your hand. Your fat choice—for instance butter, sour cream, salad dressing—should be no larger than twice your thumbnail. One cupped hand is a serving of rice or pasta, and a baseball is the size of a potato.” Any more, and you’re overdoing it. If you’ll be traveling during the holidays, Moloo suggests packing healthy snacks that keep. That way, you’ll be less tempted by less-than-healthy airline or airport fare or fast-food outlets along the highway. If all else fails, remember you have the power over the food, not the other way around. “If you have to, physically remove yourself from the food,” Bonci said. At a party, you can walk away and find someone interesting to talk to, or admire your host’s artwork or interior design. At home, you might decide to rake leaves or play in the snow, she said.