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First Person

Eat right for your heritage: Oldways has a pyramid for that

President Sara Baer-Sinnott and her team celebrate 25 years of promoting better health through food and heritage.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Oldways is a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, and our goal is to improve public health through culture and tradition and also through traditional ingredients like olive oil and whole grains. We let the old way be your guide to good health and healthy eating. The old ways really are all about real food, eating not highly processed food but eating real food. That’s what gave the organization its name. I’ve had the great privilege to be continuing the tradition.

The first program that we started was the Mediterranean diet. This was at a time when the US government’s policy was no fat. In the Mediterranean diet, one of the most important ingredients is olive oil. Twenty-five years ago, olive oil was a strange ethnic product that people didn’t know. People told us, “Americans will never use olive oil. They’ll just think they have to pour it on french fries.” But that’s certainly not true. If you just think of the Mediterranean products that are familiar today: hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, Greek yogurt — these are things that are part of the Mediterranean diet.


We have a Mediterranean diet, we have an Asian diet and pyramid, a Latin American diet family, vegetarian and vegan, and the African heritage pyramid. We bring together scientists, and actually in the case of the African heritage pyramid, culinary [experts], and we talk about what the science says, but also what the culinary influence says.

It’s all about community and fitting in. For the African-American community, their culture is a very rich one. We’ve found people have really responded to [the pyramid]. They’re excited and motivated to be part of their ties to the community.

HEALTHY LIVING To learn more about the Boston-based organization or find recipes, go to oldwayspt.org.