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


The results are in

Every year, MANNA conducts a client satisfaction survey based on the Performance Outcome Measurement Project, a validated survey tool supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The survey gives clients the opportunity to provide feedback on all aspects of the MANNA program, including food quality, delivery, packaging, nutrition education, and how they view the impact of MANNA’s services on their own health. MANNA then uses the results in our efforts to continually enhance our program. To date, we have received over 200 responses from our clients and are thrilled to share the results.

Thomas and Betty

  MANNA Client, Thomas and wife, Betty


When asked about their overall opinion of the MANNA program, 99.5% of clients said they were satisfied, with 85% reporting that they were “very satisfied.” MANNA meals met high standards, with 98.6% of clients expressing that MANNA provides quality food each week. Additionally, almost 96% of clients believe our services helped them to eat healthier foods, achieve or maintain a healthy weight, improve their health, and continue to live at home. Nearly 85% of clients said that MANNA services helped them to decrease their hospitalization rate, supporting our Food is Medicine philosophy. Finally, clients shared that MANNA helped them to better understand nutrition, with more than 95% saying they are better prepared to make healthy eating choices on their own, a true indication of the lasting educational effects of the program.



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



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.

The Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet Salmon

Originally considered the diet of the poor man, the Mediterranean Diet is now considered among the healthiest in the world. Based on the natural diet of people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Greece, this diet emphasizes plant-based foods, healthier fats and proteins, plant-based seasonings, and exercise.

To try this diet yourself, add fruits and vegetables at meal time or as snacks throughout the day. They are full of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and the added fiber in whole grains has been linked to decreased levels of cholesterol while also promoting intestinal health. Switching to whole-grain bread and eating grains such as barley, quinoa, and farro is a great way to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into everyday life.

Use heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, and eat nuts and other unsaturated fat sources high in omega-3 fatty acids. Limit amounts of saturated fat such as butter. Choosing these heart-healthy options helps lower LDL (or the “bad” cholesterol) and will provide you with antioxidant benefits.

Keep consumption of red meat to a minimum—no more than just a few times a month—and eat fish and poultry multiple times a week. Substituting fish and poultry for red meat will help lower your cholesterol intake and promote heart health. Use salt minimally; use herbs and spices to flavor dishes instead.

So, what type of beverages should you consume along with all of these healthy foods? Red wine in moderation! A glass of red wine with your meal is actually allowed, but if you don’t already drink, don’t feel the need to start.

Enjoy this recipe that follows the rules of the Mediterranean diet—and check the Be Well Philly Blog for some tips on how to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

Mediterranean Style Grilled Salmon

• 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 4 salmon fillets, each 5 ounces
• Cracked black pepper, to taste
• 4 green olives, chopped
• 4 thin slices lemon

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. In a small bowl, combine the basil, parsley, minced garlic and lemon juice. Spray the fish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with black pepper. Top each fillet with equal amounts of the basil-garlic mixture. Place the fish herb-side down on the grill. Grill over high heat. When the edges turn white, after about 3 to 4 minutes, turn the fish over and place on aluminum foil. Move the fish to a cooler part of the grill or reduce the heat. Grill until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of a knife and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads 145°F (about 4 minutes longer). Remove the salmon and place on warmed plates. Garnish with green olives and lemon slices.

Celebrating American Heart Month

This February we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of American Heart Month!


Established in 1964 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson (a heart attack survivor himself), American Heart Month and the American Heart Association has worked to lower the amount of American deaths each year from heart disease through education, research and awareness. It’s a big job because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Although there are a lot of risk factors (family history, diet, exercise and smoking),   most cases of heart disease are preventable (and even reversible!) through proper diet and exercise.  And that’s where MANNA comes in!

MANNA ensures that every meal we deliver is heart healthy by sending fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and using herbs and spices in place of salt as often as possible. Even our soups are made with low sodium bases to keep our sodium levels within the healthy levels of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA).

You can follow a heart healthy diet on your own at home.  Keep your blood pressure down and your heart healthy by monitoring the amount of salt that you take in daily. Many pre-packaged foods use sodium as a preservative and for flavor, including canned vegetables. While the dietitians at MANNA would never discourage someone from eating a serving of veggies, we recommend checking the food label before eating some of those canned varieties. The best way to do this is by using your nutrition food label and paying specific attention to the sodium content.  The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans and advises everyone to limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day, the Tolerable Upper Limit.  You can also look at the %RDA for a serving size of the product and if the label reads that a serving is higher than 20%, this is considered to be high in sodium.

There are plenty of ways to reduce sodium content in your canned vegetables. Pour the contents of the can into a pot of room temperature water and let sit for at least 5 minutes. After the time has passed, drain the water from your veggies and you will have lowered the sodium content!  You can also look for low-sodium labels on many products.

Enjoy February…have a wonderful Valentine’s Day…and check those nutrition labels so your heart can be ready – and healthy – for romance!

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month


When Valarie Maddox was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, her two young daughters needed MANNA’s support as well.  Valarie avowed, “The meals are great because I am a single mother and I live with my two daughters.  To see the strain on my daughters and their worry because I was always the cook in my house, the MANNA meals helped to take the pressure off of them knowing I was taken care of.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and the incidence continues to rise steadily with over 1 million new cases and almost half a million deaths annually.  Currently the direct cause of breast cancer is not known; education, awareness and early detection remain as the key components to combating this disease.  October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when people across the world increase awareness of the disease and fundraise to support research in search of a cure.

In 2007 MANNA partnered with the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia organization to provide medically-appropriate meals to hundreds of women and families battling breast cancer.  This partnership ensured access to nutritious meals early in their treatment, increasing their chances of survival.  Since 2007, MANNA has nourished back to health over 500 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

“MANNA has helped me so much with their meal program.  When I was too tired to cook I was able to heat up a meal which helped me a lot.  I felt like if I didn’t have MANNA, my nutrition would not have been as good,” MANNA client Chanel Royster noted.

Charlene Callicut, a current MANNA client agreed, “MANNA has provided me a lot of support since day one.  It really helped me with my eating and providing me with nutritious food.  The type of food that they are sending me is good food, and it tastes good too.”

For more information on ways that you can become involved with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, go to  www.komenphiladelphia.org.

Sue Daugherty – Our #Health Hero


Philadelphia’s health blog staple – Be Well Philly of Philadelphia Magazine has announced its 16 semi-finalist for their annual Health Hero Challenge. Out of over 500 entries, MANNA’s Executive Director, Sue Daugherty was named one of the 16. Voters can start voting and showing their support on September 10th when voting begins. Voters are allowed to vote once a day – every day until September 16th when voting for Sue’s round ends. We sat down with Sue to find out what she thinks about the nomination and what she is doing to make MANNA a health hero to thousands of ill neighbors throughout the greater Philadelphia area. Make sure to Like Be Well Philly’s Facebook page to be able to vote!

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated and a semi-finalist for the Be Well Philly Health Hero?

I was shocked and honored. What a great forum for me to talk about MANNA and the work we do.

What is your idea of what a Health Hero means?

Someone who takes seriously their role in learning and understanding what being healthy means and spreads that message.   Your health needs to be a lifelong commitment that requires discipline.

MANNA focuses on nutrition and food as medicine and you have been a key force in the science of the MANNA meals. Could you speak more about what “food as medicine means”?

I often tell patients that your body is like a car – if you don’t put gas in it you are not going anywhere. You may splutter along for a little while, but eventually without the proper fuel, you aren’t going to get too far. Like a car, you need to fuel your body with good nutrition as the foundation and base for all your treatments.  The prescription bottle and its contents are next to useless without certain nutrition standards met first.

Speaking of food as medicine, MANNA was recently published in The Journal of Primary Medicine and Community Health: Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group. What were the key finds from the research?

Keeping someone nourished in the home is saving significant health care cost – study results.  MANNA clients who received complete nutrition cost the health care system less, are hospitalized for less days and when discharged they are more likely to be discharged to home versus sub-acute or long term care.

When did your love/passion for health begin?

Hmm, I think my passion began early in my profession working with the HIV/AIDS population.  I always had an interest and studied nutrition.  I knew it was important, but I don’t think I really fully understood its impact until I saw patients fighting for their lives first hand.  I was watching patients wasting away/dying from AIDS – but over and over again I saw patients that were nourished and physically strong able to tolerate their treatments better.  It was at this time that I started to talk about food as medicine. I counseled my patients to think of food as a pill and just like you needed to take your pills at a certain time it was just as critical to eat at regular times.

What do you believe is the best way to stay healthy?

I think everything in moderation and balance.  Eating healthy and physical exercise should be part of your life routine but not rule your life.  Too many times I’ve made the mistake of going on a “diet” or some intense exercise regimen.  The problem with diets and crazy workouts is their not sustainable; there is a start and an end.  Often when you fail (missing a day at the gym or eating a “forbidden” food) you feel bad about it and end up eating worse or not working out at all.  It really is a balance for me – it is a routine but it’s okay to take a day off.

Besides good nutrition, do you do anything else to stay healthy?

For me health is defined by a lot.  Yes, good nutrition and regular exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) are important.  Just as important for me is laughter and not taking life too seriously.  It’s so easy to get caught up in work demands and my profession is important to my mental health and my identity, but sometimes you just have to have a good laugh and usually it’s at myself – I have 7 nieces and nephews who are all under the age of 11 and I have to tell you they are pretty good at keeping me in check!

What is your favorite exercise?

Running is therapy for me and always surprises me – I’ve been running for the past 20 years and I still can’t predict a good or bad run?  Spin is another favorite exercise – I love the music!

Who is your personal health hero?

Patricia Sola founder of Hope Initiative – Namibia, Southwest Africa.  In 2007 I had the honor of traveling to Namibia with a small team to work with Patricia to help develop nutrition programs for OVC’s (orphans and vulnerable children) living in squatter settlements. Patricia was an inspiration and continues to be.

Who or what makes you motivated to stay healthy?

MANNA clients – they are fighting for their life.  I know what a gift my health is – I never take it for granted and want to do everything in my power to ensure I continue a healthy lifestyle.

How do you treat yourself? Any forbidden foods that you just can’t stay away from?

Of course, I don’t believe in forbidden foods – my belief is “all foods fit.”   I would have to say that Chickie and Pete’s crab fries with cheese sauce are my favorite.

While eating out, what’s your trick on watching your calorie intake with all of Philadelphia’s amazing restaurants around?

I hardly ever order an entrée for myself – I love to share or get a salad and an appetizer for my meal.

What is your favorite MANNA pie?

Sky Pie