Using Traditional Foods with Oldways

Eating healthy doesn’t mean leaving behind traditional flavors or cooking bland food. Every cuisine can be nutritious! According to Oldways, traditional diets are actually ideal for good food and good health.  

Oldways is a Boston-based food and nutrition nonprofit, promoting healthy diets based on cultural foods and tastes. The organization creates meal plans and recipes based on different ethnic cuisines, using the “old ways” of eating as a guide. Oldways offers recipes and nutritionists, partnering with some Kohl’s Healthy Family Fun sites for cooking demonstrations. 

The nonprofit identified four major diets based on culture – think of them as guidelines on how to eat healthy. Each diet is based from cultures from a similar geographic location. Take a look below to see the unique ingredients and tastes these diets are based on.  

The Four Traditional Diets

The Mediterranean diet

Inspired by the food traditions of people living around the Mediterranean Sea, like Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East (countries like Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Syria, and Turkey)

Better traditional food choices include seafood, olive oil, lentils, couscous, chickpeas, eggplants, cucumbers, apricots, citrus fruits, pomegranate, and spices like garlic, mint, and sumac.

The African Heritage diet

 Inspired by people living across the African continent and the Caribbean as well as Afro-Latino and African-American traditions (countries like Barbados, Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, and the United States)

Healthy choices include various beans (broad beans, pigeon peas), cassava, yams, barley, injera, mustard greens, jicama, okra, pumpkin, plantains, baobab, with spices like coriander, peppers, and sesame.

Latin American Heritage diet

Reflects the foods and flavors of people from South and Central America and the Caribbean (countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela)

Foods to eat more of include seafood, beans (pinto, black, garbanzo), quinoa, yucca, squash, chiles, avocado, passion fruit, guava, and spices like cilantro, cinnamon, and parsley.

Asian Heritage diet

Inspired by the diverse food traditions in East Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia (countries like Armenia, China, India, Japan, Mongolia, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Uzbekistan)

Healthier food choices include duck, quail, paneer, bitter melon, cabbage, bean sprouts, radishes, buckwheat, lentils, tofu, coconut, pears, mangoes,  and spices like fenugreek, ginger, and turmeric.

Throughout the coming weeks, we’ll post recipe and meal plan ideas from Oldways that fit into these different diets. Eating healthy is a lifestyle change you can make without losing your food traditions.

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