Observe National Food Day with MANNA

Although the month of October may be most notably known for apple picking, pumpkin carving, and Halloween candy, it is also the time to celebrate and plan for a greener, healthier lifestyle on National Food Day. This annual event held every October 24th observes the importance of eating healthy, real food and brings light to food politics.

Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), but it is powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders and organizations. The slogan “Eat Real” was adopted to encompass affordable food, tasty whole ingredients, and provide essential nutrients for overall health. Join the 2016 campaign with MANNA to reduce nutritional risks at a local, state, and national level.

How to “Eat Real”:

  • Maintain a healthier diet with less trans fat, added sugar, and an excess of calories.
  • Visit a sustainable and local farm.
  • Plant your own garden.
  • Reduce hunger through government aid like the SNAP program.
  • Advocate for a food/nutrition policy in the community.
  • Attend a “Cooking Matters” class at the local grocery store.
  • Support and share information on social media.

Why Get Involved? A diet poor in nutrient-rich foods can lead to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular events. It is vital to promote a healthier lifestyle to decrease your risk!  This month, it is time to inspire diet change and improve our food policies by buying local, caring for the environment, and solving food-related problems. National Food day can be accomplished by anyone anytime of the year. Join in on the efforts towards eating a healthier, more sustainable diet! Learn more at www.foodday.org




National Cholesterol Education Month

Summer is winding down and students are on their way back to school. What a perfect time to reevaluate our health and start educating ourselves about cholesterol. More than 102 million American Adults (20 years or older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease. Too much cholesterol in our blood can lead to serious conditions including heart disease and stroke. Why? Cholesterol blocks the flow of blood to our heart. We encourage everyone to make an effort to protect your arteries and heart this month and every month.

Step one: To prevent/detect high cholesterol, one must be screened. Ask your doctor to do a blood test to find out your cholesterol levels.  Ideally, aim for total cholesterol less than 200mg/dl.

Step two: Next, educate yourself! There are two different kinds of cholesterol. Good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).  To decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, we want to decrease the bad cholesterol in our diet. Good cholesterol, helps protect against heart disease and we want this number to be higher than 40 mg/dl, but ideally above 60 mg/dl.

Prevent High Cholesterol with These Lifestyle Changes

  • Decrease saturated fats in your diet {butter, whole milk, red meat, solid fats}
  • Choose healthy fats {fish, nuts, olive oil}
  • Get some fiber {fruits, vegetables, beans & whole grains}
  • Exercise {aim to exercise for 30 minutes five times a week}
  • Reduce sodium intake {aim for less than 2300 mg sodium a day}
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get screened annually {aim to have your total cholesterol less the 200 mg/dl}
  • Eat whole, unprocessed foods whenever available



Easy & tasty swaps to help lower cholesterol

Low fat plain or Greek yogurt for sour cream

Avocados to replace mayo on sandwiches

Hummus instead of cheese/milk based dips

Lean ground turkey instead of ground beef

Herbs and spices instead of table salt

Olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice instead of store bought salad dressing

Plain (unsalted, unbuttered) popcorn vs potato chips


Interested in some great recipes that are low in cholesterol? Check them out here!




Blog by MANNA’s Nutrition Department and Julie Lichtman


Already August? That’s Nuts!

Packed with protein, fiber, nutrients, and health-protective substances, a small handful of nuts makes for a nutritious and satisfying snack. If you enjoy eating almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and more, this month is for you! “National Nuts Day” will be celebrated August 3rd, while “National Trail Mix Day” is August 31st. Nuts are so calorically dense so it’s important to keep track of your portion sizes. A one-ounce recommended serving size (roughly 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 17 cashews, or 28 peanuts) contains approximately 160 to 200 calories. When incorporated appropriately into your diet, here are some benefits of nuts:


  • Although nuts are high in calories and fat, most of the fat comes from monounsaturated fat. This fat can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, making nuts a heart-healthy choice.
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts can benefit your heart by preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help to fight inflammation.
  • Nuts are a fiber-rich food. Fiber fills you up, which can help you eat less and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, fiber is thought to play a role in preventing diabetes. Almonds contain the most fiber (about three grams per ounce) than any other nut.
  • Furthermore, nuts are an excellent source of Vitamin-E, which plays an important role in prevention of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin-E has been shown to stop the development of plaque in arteries.
  • Antioxidants help to protect your body from the cellular damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging,and they are found in nuts. To get the most antioxidants out of your nuts, choose walnuts.

If you are allergic to nuts or just don’t like the taste, there are a few substitutes you can eat that contain similar nutritional benefits. For instance, sunflower seeds lower the risk of heart disease and contain high amounts of Vitamin-E. Avocados, olives, and pumpkin seeds are also excellent sources of nutrients found in nuts, especially unsaturated fats.


Heart-Healthy Trail Mix Recipe


½ cup unsalted silvered almonds

3 cups whole grain unsweetened cereal (Can mix cereals)

1 cup unsalted, dry roasted soy nuts

1 cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup seedless raisins

½ cup diced dried apricots (or choice or additional unsweetened dried fruit – such as mixed berries or figs or dates)



Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and serve!

Nutritional information

Makes 28 servings

Serving size: ¼ cup

Nutritional Facts:

Calories: 110

Fat: 6 g

Saturated Fat: 0.5 g

Sodium: 35 mg

Cholesterol: 0 g

Protein: 5 g

Carbohydrate: 13 g

Sugars: 4 g

Dietary fiber: 3-7 grams (depending on the type of cereal used)


Source: Melissa Ohlson MS, RD, LD & Julia Zumpano RD, LD

Registered Dietitians from the Department of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation


January is National Soup Month

The blustery cold month of January is upon us. What better time than now to sit down to a hot, delicious bowl of soup to help warm you up!  Soups are a great option nutritionally, they provide us with lots of important nutrients including vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories. Soup can be a simple addition to any meal and a great way to make sure that you and your family get the essential servings of whole grains, vegetables and protein in one bowl.

Although some canned soups can be healthy, they are often very high in sodium which can cause an increase in blood pressure and leads to a higher risk of developing heart disease. Sticking to low sodium, broth based canned soups would be the healthier way to go but preparing homemade soups can provide many more health benefits.


Preparing your own homemade soups allows you to control the nutritional value by adding plenty of vegetables, whole grains, healthy protein and herbs which naturally flavors your soup and allows you to skip the extra sodium.  The winter months bring us a whole new variety of vegetables to choose from including cabbage, kale, leeks, mushrooms, turnips and winter squash.  Squash is packed with tons of nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. Adding lean meat like chicken or turkey will make the soup more filling while increasing the protein content. Making sure to use a low sodium beef, chicken or vegetable broth rather than one that is cream based will ensure the soup has less salt and fat.

Other benefits in cooking homemade soup is that it tends to be much more cost efficient. Preparing a large batch of soup will allow you to have leftover which you can freeze for a later time. Making homemade soups is a great way to keep warm and stay healthy throughout the winter months.


If you are crunched for time this winter season, why not purchase a delicious, homemade soup from MANNA? Starting Thursday, January 1st, we kick off our annual SOUPer Bowl fundraising event.  Choose from 3 delectable soup flavors including Hearty Chicken Noodle, MANNA Minestrone and Creamy Corn Chowder.  By purchasing our homemade soups you not only nourish yourself, but you support us in nourishing our MANNA clients. For more infomation, go to mannapa.org/souperbowl.


A recipe to try:

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup






1 butternut squash

1 yellow onion

32 oz. chicken (or vegetable) broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 450 F.

Peel, de-seed, and dice the squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (doesn’t need to be perfect).

Peel and dice the onion into roughly 1-inch pieces.

Place the squash and onion onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes until squash is lightly golden and fork-tender.

In a large pot, bring the broth to a simmer. Add the roasted veggies. Puree using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. (If using a regular blender or food processor, work in batches so that your container isn’t full to the brim, and be careful not to burn yourself). Finish with a drizzle of EVOO or spoonful of plain yogurt if you’d like, and enjoy! MORE



Healthy Holiday Eating

Do you teeter between counting down the days until your holiday feast and dreading the seemingly inevitable food coma to follow? It can be tough to practice moderation around the holidays and many people pay for holiday indulgences by carrying around extra pounds.  Try to keep a couple of tips in mind to curb your holiday hunger while allowing yourself to enjoy all the favorites.

Beat the Beverages

Many people only think about calories when it comes to food.  Beverages can be very calorie-dense as well and often offer little nutritional value.  Some holiday drinks are full of hidden sugar, fat and calories.  Here are a couple ways to cut back:


Try mixing ½ a glass of skim or low-fat milk with ½ a glass of eggnog

Passing on the alcohol also means passing on extra calories

Hot Chocolate

Opt for low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk.

Pass on the whipped cream or keep it to 1 tablespoon or less

Apple Cider

Check for added sugars—make sure you’re drinking 100% juice



Know Your Meal

This doesn’t just mean know the dish, but know the ingredients.  Being aware of common sources of fat, sodium, and extra calories can help you make the best choices at the holiday table.

Be aware of Sodium

Many holiday favorites like breads, rolls, canned stocks, soups, and sauces are very high in sodium. Use herbs and spices like rosemary and cloves instead of salt and butter. When you can, choose to use fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned—these have added sodium too.

When it comes to turkey…

Choose lighter pieces of meat, as they have fewer calories than dark meat.

Remove the skin from your meat.

Remember portions—a serving of meat is 3 oz. or about the size of a deck of cards

Gravy is dangerous when it comes to fat, calories, and sodium.  If you choose to use some, keep it to 1 tablespoon and use it for turkey only.

Don’t Destroy Dessert

When it comes to sweet treats, try to sample rather than making a second meal out of pie and cookies.  These treats are sure to be packed with sugar and fat and that’s after the meal! Consider sharing a serving with a buddy or asking for a smaller slice.

Healthy Eating Starts with Healthier Cooking

Try some tricky culinary maneuvers to reduce the fat, sugar, and sodium in your holiday dishes.  Your guests will never notice, but they sure will thank you later!

When baking…

Try substituting ½ the butter for applesauce.

Use low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream

Substitute ½ the white flour for whole wheat

When cooking, opt for vegetable oils instead of butter

Use whole-grain breads, pastas and stuffing instead of white

Compare labels to make lower-sodium choices

Use spices to ease up on salt and sugar. Consider things like cinnamon, cloves, vanilla; rosemary, thyme, garlic.

Finally—Remember to stay active

Go for a walk.  Try sledding again.  Ice skate…tis the season!


Food Safety, Access & the Impact on Low Income Families

A sobering study released by researchers at Drexel provides more evidence that inequities in our food system present health threats to low-income populations in Philadelphia. Taking samples from almost 400 corner stores and small grocery stores from 2008 to 2010, the researchers found that foods available in less affluent neighborhoods were significantly more likely to be rotten or contaminated. Milk, fruits, and vegetables were more likely to go bad soon after purchase than those sold in more affluent neighborhoods. Ultimately, the study showed that when staples and healthy foods were available in poor neighborhoods, it was often at the cost of food safety.


This isn’t necessarily an insidious finding; people are not deliberately serving contaminated food to the poor. Rather, many stores in low-income neighborhoods seem to simply lack the capacity to store and serve foods the way that stores in middle or high income areas do. Refrigerated items are more likely to sit out longer as smaller staffs work to stock coolers and refrigerators, and profit margins are so thin that many stores may not be able to afford proper refrigeration

These issues of food safety are a part of the larger food access problem in Philadelphia, however work is being done to alleviate these ills. The city government, working with the Food Trust and several other organizations, is addressing healthy food access through the Get Healthy Philly program, which includes funding and capacity building for healthy corner stores and healthy food retail in under served communities.

However, while these efforts are making  great strides in improving food access in Philadelphia, Drexel’s study has striking implications for MANNA’s vulnerable clients. While healthy people might get sick from contaminated or spoiled foods, the illnesses are fairly mild and temporary. A person may experience nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting, but it will likely be short-lived, and many people won’t even know it was caused by their food. However, for critically ill patients, these food safety issues are far more concerning as a compromised immune system might result in more serious consequences of foodborne illnesses. This is yet more evidence that the critically ill deserve and need carefully prepared home-delivered meals, so that their safety and health can be protected.


In spite of the food injustice emphasized by Drexel’s study, with the many initiatives to build a strong network of healthy food retailers in the city, Philadelphia is moving in the right direction to address the issue. However, at MANNA we also recognize that our clients are particularly vulnerable to the still-present issues in our food system, and we continue to work to safely nourish those who need it most.


This post is by Kelly McGlynn, rising senior at Brown University and former Advocacy & Health Policy Intern at MANNA.


Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. This month, we encourage everyone to take time to consider the risk factors for diabetes and to take steps to prevent it.

Did you know?

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational. Only about 5% of diabetics are type 1, and many of those are diagnosed in childhood or as young adults. Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women (about 2-10%) and typically ends after pregnancy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type and tends to develop in adulthood and is preventable. Comorbidities or complications associated with diabetes are severe. Many are common and can cause serious, long-term consequences including: hypoglycemia, hypertension (affecting 71% of adults with diabetes), dyslipidemia (affecting 65% of adults with diabetes), cardiovascular disease (death rates are 1.7 times higher with diabetes), heart attack (1.8 higher hospitalization rate with diabetes), stroke (1.5 higher hospitalization rate with diabetes), blindness (in diabetics over 40 years in age, 28.5% have damage to blood vessels in eyes that may leads to blindness), kidney disease (diabetes is the primary cause of kidney failure in 44% of all new cases) and amputations (73,000 in 2010 alone, accounting for 60% of all non-traumatic lower-limb amputations).

Diabetes is the 4th most common primary illness in clients served by MANNA. In the past year alone, MANNA has served 433 diabetic clients, comprising 23% of all MANNA clients. As of 2012, 9.3% of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes – almost 1 in 10! Over a quarter of all seniors have diabetes and it is now the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. There are 1.7 million new cases per year and approximately 7 million diabetics are undiagnosed.


The most effective way to prevent and control diabetes is through a proper diet. A proper diabetic diet is more than just skipping out on cake and cookies. Managing diabetes through diet requires portion control, meal regularity and balance. Diabetics must regulate the amount of carbohydrates in their diets in order to keep blood glucose levels safe. Balancing carbohydrates with protein and fiber is important as well. If blood glucose levels spike too high or drop too low the effects can range from shakiness and fatigue to hospitalization and seizures. Working with a Dietitian and/or a Certified Diabetes Educator can help diabetics make smart choices and minimize the risk of high or low blood sugar. MANNA’s dietitians provide free nutrition counseling and education for individuals suffering from diabetes. To schedule an appointment, contact the Nutrition Department at 215-496-2662 x5.


MANNA is also proud to share that we will Step Out for Diabetes! On Saturday, November 1st, the MANNAmals will once again be at the Art Museum to support The Walk to Stop Diabetes. We’re committed to walk and raise money in this inspirational event not because 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, but because we personally know some of them, and want to do something about it. So many lives are touched by diabetes. Chances are your life is too. Join us or donate – either way, you can change lives. For more information or to register, visit our Team Page or search for Team MANNA. We are forever grateful for your support. Together we can Stop Diabetes!


October is Vegetarian Awareness Month

Even for non-vegetarians, October is a great time to take an extra moment or two to reflect on personal food choices. What we eat affects our health as well as the planet in significant ways. Every meal matters when it comes to making a difference.  One way to start small with your veg journey is to start with one vegetarian night a week, “Meatless Mondays.” Try to challenge yourself, friends and family to eliminate meat from your Monday meals by creating an entirely vegetarian breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even MANNA clients can participate in this vegetarian endeavor, we offer one vegetarian dinner entrée per week in addition to a large variety of fruit and vegetables with their meals.

There are several reasons to think about vegetarianism. For starters, it is a great way to focus on eating veggies. Five a day is the goal, and more is even better!  All MANNA meals strive to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables.  Combined with exercise and other healthy habits, plant-based diets can reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Also, vegetables, fruits and legumes tend to be very nutrient dense and are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.  A vegetarian diet can also help double down on fiber and then some, the average American gets only about 12g of the 35 g. of fiber per day that is recommended.



Curious to learn more about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet? Or just looking for some ideas? Try these resources:

www.vrg.org/nutrition or www.vegetariantimes.com

Need another reason to picks beans instead of burgers in October? Do it for the planet!  Vegetarian diets require less water for production and produce less CO2 as a byproduct.  On a nationwide scale, this really adds up.  For more information on the environmental effects of meat production, check out the article below.


Food is Medicine: A Growing Belief

Despite its humble beginnings, the “food as medicine” principle that MANNA’s system is based on is finally beginning to be recognized and acted on by our policymakers. A fact sheet published in July by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that the new Farm Bill includes a program that will use healthy food access to help prevent chronic illnesses and reduce medical costs.

The report comments that the American diet, typically high in meats, sugars, and processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, has led to the highest spending in health care of any country in the world. Most of our medical spending is on chronic illnesses, many of which could be prevented by improved diets. However, prevention and treatment is not as simple as just telling people to change their diets. The U.S. food system makes it very difficult for many people to access healthy foods, given that most low-income communities lack stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, and those that do often sell them at unaffordable prices.


The 2014 Farm Bill begins to address this problem with a program called the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), which offers grant funding to community organizations working to secure affordable access to healthy foods. FINI requires that organizations match these federal funds with contributions from other sources. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests hospitals supply the match, using The Affordable Care Act requirement for community benefit initiatives. FINI provides the opportunity for health care facilities and healthy food initiatives to collaborate, all in the name of improving health and reducing health care costs.

At MANNA, we support initiatives like this that break down the perceived barrier between health care and food. While MANNA is not a preventative service that would fit under FINI, we do work in the same realm, using food as an integral part of a treatment plan. Healthy food is critical to a healthy life and we hope to see more progressive legislation in the future that builds on the understanding that food is medicine.

This post is by Kelly McGlynn, rising senior at Brown University and former Advocacy & Health Policy Intern at MANNA.

August is Family Meals Month


August is Family Meals Month, a time to take a break from busy schedules and come together as a family to share a meal.  Eating together four or more times in a week has proven benefits, including nutritional health.

Family meals are an opportunity for conversation which teaches children how to listen and provides them a chance to express their own opinions, giving them a voice in the family. Positive dinner conversations and active listening expands children’s vocabulary and reading ability and increases their sense of security. Family meals have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation and self-esteem. Eating frequent meals together also encourages positive nutritional health. Planning, preparing and cooking healthy meals together teaches children the skills they need to carry on these healthy eating habits throughout adulthood. Studies have shown that families who eat dinner together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and healthy protein sources and fewer fried foods and soda.

August is also a very popular month for kids to go to summer camp. Campers are often exposed to new foods that are also wholesome and nourishing. This month, MANNA’s Registered Dietitian, Alura Costa, will be teaching an interactive nutrition workshop at Camp Dreamcatcher. Alura will talk with campers about healthy eating and demonstrate ways for the kids to prepare the foods at home. Look for more information and photos from this day on the MANNA blog and website.  Learn more about this camp for children whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS at www.campdreamcatcher.org.