Ask a Dietitian: Cooking Oils

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by manna

If you want your question answered by a dietitian and published on our blog, email Maris Harmon at

QuestionWhat is the healthiest oil to use, and which oils should we stay away from?

MANNA Dietitian: Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest oils to use, because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help reduce the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increase the “good” cholesterol (HDL). Olives naturally contain antioxidants, called polyphenols, which protect against free radicals. Olive oil is best for low-temperature cooking, such as sautéeing. 

Canola oil and sunflower oil both contain polyunsaturated fats, which help improve blood cholesterol levels, reducing your risk for heart disease. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for good health. They both have a medium-high smoke point, which is great for searing, frying, or baking.

Grapeseed oil is another healthy, versatile option. It is rich in polyunsaturated fats, and is a good choice for cooking over high heat (sautéing, roasting).

Avoid using oils labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. These oils contain high amounts of trans-fat. Trans-fats are responsible for clogged arteries, which can lead to heart attacks. Two oils to avoid are corn oil and palm oil, both high in calories and trans-fats. 


National Homemade Soup Day

Posted on: February 2nd, 2017 by manna

Homemade Soup Day (February 4)

Warm up with this heart-healthy, budget friendly Black Bean Soup


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 2 16-oz. canned, low-sodium black beans (undrained)
  • 1 15-oz. can, no-salt-added, diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Optional: fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Spray a large pot with cooking spray (or oil), over medium-high heat add onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, cumin and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the beans and lightly mash with a masher or a fork.
  4. Add tomatoes and broth – bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Served topped with fresh cilantro (optional).

February is American Heart Month

Posted on: February 2nd, 2017 by manna

February is American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. Fortunately, we can often prevent this chronic illness by making healthier choices along with managing our health conditions. The MANNA meal program helps to ensure that each client we serve follows the American Heart Association’s daily recommendations for preventing heart disease by using it as a guide when creating our six week cycle menu. Eating heart-healthy foods and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help control and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and other heart-related illnesses.

Here are a few simple, easy tips your heart (and body) will love you for!

  • Physical activity is key to a healthy heart. The American Heart Association suggests exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Physical activity includes walking, swimming, biking, and many more.
  • Make it fun! Choose activities that you will enjoy. Try to change up your routine weekly, that way it will never seem boring.
  • Invite family and friends to join you. You are more likely to stick with an exercise routine if you have company.
  • Decrease the amount of sodium in your diet by being conscious of how much added salt you are putting in your food, processed foods, and canned items.
  • Instead of adding salt to your food, try adding healthy spices such as rosemary, thyme, curry, or coriander.
  • Reduce the amount of fat in your diet by choosing lean meats and healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, avocados, nuts, fish, etc.)
  • Try to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is an important component in helping to reduce your risk for heart disease.

For more information, visit

January 2017 Ask a Dietitian

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by manna

We’re Here to Help!

In an effort to provide our community of supporters, volunteers, and clients with helpful nutrition tips, we have begun an “Ask a Dietitian” series that will be promoted on our blog and social media.

Beth D. asks

Please settle a discussion between me and my husband!  When storing warm leftovers in a container (which will be stored in the refrigerator), is it better to cover the leftovers while warm and then refrigerate, or to leave them in an open container to cool off before covering & refrigerating?

Nicole Laverty, RD, LDN replied with

Thank you for sending our first “Ask a MANNA Dietitian” question!!!  It is a great question and something that I have debated with family members in the past during holiday events.  It is important to follow safe food handling when dealing with leftovers to prevent food-borne illness.  First, you want to make sure that you cook your food to a safe, minimum internal temperature using a food thermometer (145 ° F for red meats, 160 ° F for ground meats, and 165 ° F for poultry).  After preparing your food, you want to keep your food out of the “Danger Zone” (40 ° F – 140 ° F).  Hot food must be kept hot at 140 ° F or warmer and cold food at 40 ° F or less for two hours or less, at or after that 2 hour time period you must either refrigerate your leftovers or throw the food away.  To answer your specific question, it is important to cool your cooked food rapidly so that it reaches the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40 ° F or below.  Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers and cut large items of food into smaller portions to cool.  Hot food can then be placed directly in the refrigerator or be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.  It is also important to cover or seal your leftovers in airtight packaging to help keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other foods in the fridge.  Immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling.  You can keep your leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months. 


Amanda P. asks

I know that consuming too much sugar can lead to health concerns like diabetes and obesity, but I’ve recently heard that a calorie is just a calorie and it’s not what you eat that matters, is that true?

Nicole Laverty, RD, LDN replied with

Because sugar lacks fiber and other healthy nutrients, its rate of metabolism – how quickly your body breaks it down – is fast. This means that refined sugar is quickly broken down into glucose and fructose.

Glucose spikes insulin (a hormone) and blood sugar levels, which gives you a quick surge of energy that your body cannot use right away. This high insulin level increases storage of belly fat and increases inflammation, and it also affects the chemistry of your brain and increases your appetite by blocking leptin – the appetite-control hormone. When you become leptin resistant your brain never gets the “full” signal, and instead thinks that you are starving, causing you to consume more calories.

Fructose is metabolized in your liver and absorbed at once, increasing fat cell production and the workload on your liver. It also triggers more insulin resistance and causes elevated blood insulin levels, which result in the body storing everything as belly fat. This is not healthy, and also generates more inflammation, worsening insulin resistance and leading to weight gain and diabetes.

On the other hand, while fruit is also made mostly of glucose and fructose, their chemical and plant structures are different from refined sugar in ways that alter the absorption rate and effects on the body. Fruit is rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It is also a great source of fiber, which refined sugar lacks entirely. The fiber naturally occurring in fruit expands your gut, helping you to fell fuller for longer. It also prevents the sugars in fruit from being broken down as rapidly and prevents the crazy insulin spike, allowing your body more time to use up the glucose as fuel before storing it, and decreasing the metabolic stress on your body.


Have a question for our staff? Send them to and we’ll answer them here! Responses will also be shared on MANNA’s Facebook page and in our monthly e-newsletter.

January 2017 Nutrition Tip

Posted on: January 6th, 2017 by manna

The start of a New Year is upon us which is often a time of self-reflection and a desire to make changes in our lives.  Most often, these changes include steps towards growth and forward movement to a “better” you.  Although this introspective work is done with good intentions, it can often lead to unrealistic goals that can’t be met or kept.  It is important to remember that we are constantly in a state of a work-in-progress and never a finished product.  This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions that may not be feasible, take a moment to reflect on your life and the things that will bring you joy, happiness, peace and abundance to help set attainable goals.  Consider using the guide below to help make this process a successful one.

  1. Ask why.

What is your motivation for making changes?  Once you understand your why, the path towards obtaining these goals becomes clearer.

  1. Make the decision.

Make the decision that you are worth it!  When the goals you set comes from a place of self-love, you will be more motivated and able to obtain them.

  1. Make plans, but be flexible.

Life is never still but always changing make sure your plans follow suit.

  1. Stay in the moment.

Change is a process that happens over time, know that you can manage things that are happening now.

  1. Tell people.

Surrounding yourself with a community of family and friends who support you will only make the process more successful.

  1. Quiet the inner critic.

The act of self-criticizing is a way that your ego protects you, these responses come from a place of fear.  Quiet that inner critic by evaluating those thoughts and beliefs and their validity and replacing them with love and empowerment.

  1. Use your mind as a tool for change.

Using gentle language and actions develop a personal mantra, state an affirmation, engage in prayer or meditation.

  1. Set attainable goals.

Set realistic goals and define them from a positive, heart-centered place.  Consider things that you would like to add to your like, not just take away.

  1. Remember it’s not all or nothing.

Change comes in small steps and takes practice.  Allow yourself the space and time needed to successfully incorporate these goals.  And, when you are successful, celebrate!

A Get Inspired Grant Story from The Barra Foundation

Posted on: December 1st, 2016 by manna

Food is Medicine


Bruce Palmisano’s wounds wouldn’t heal. The wheelchair-bound Vietnam era vet took medication and nutritional supplements month after month, and still the burns on his feet – from scorching water in a foot massager – wouldn’t heal. Then Palmisano found MANNA, a Philadelphia nonprofit which provides medically appropriate meals to people like Palmisano struggling with chronic or acute illness.

Within a short time, Palmisano was fully recovered. “The program is wonderful,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been on MANNA, for the last four months, my feet healed up 100 percent.’’

MANNA provided Palmisano three high-protein meals a day, designed for wound recovery; it’s one of 11 menus developed by MANNA dieticians for clients with illnesses ranging from diabetes to cancer to kidney failure.

The organization feeds 1,000 people three meals a day, every day. Meals are free to clients. MANNA pays for those meals the way most nonprofits pay for services: they fundraise. MANNA has built an impressive network of individual donors, foundations and corporate sponsors and they organize big, creative fundraisers, like Pie in the Sky.

Palmisano’s case is cited by Ann Hoskins-Brown, MANNA’s director of Policy and Institutional Affairs, as evidence that food can be as necessary as medicine in restoring health. In MANNA’s vision for the future, doctors will write prescriptions for meals and insurance companies will pay for them. “We want medically-appropriate meals to be a standard part of healthcare, much like hospice care is available to everyone who needs it,” she said.

They knew it would be difficult to convince medical professionals and health insurance companies that food should be treated—and paid for—like medicine. In order to demonstrate their work’s true value, they invested in research. The report, published in the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health, showed that Medical Nutrition Therapy—which includes nutritional assessment and one-on-one counseling—coupled with medically tailored, home-delivered meals improves health, reduces costs and increases quality of life.

“The average savings was between $10,000 and $12,000 per person per month,” Hoskins-Brown said. “People weren’t going into the hospital as frequently and when they did, they stayed for a shorter period of time. And when they were released, they went directly home rather than to sub-acute care.”

The findings led directly to a remarkable reimbursement pilot in which a local health insurance company is providing coverage for MANNA’s comprehensive nutrition services for up to 200 of its members at any given time.

To market themselves to insurers beyond the pilot, MANNA’s next hurdle was to modernize MANNA’s data system. Nicole Laverty, nutrition and client services manager explained that this would not only allow MANNA to make systemic observations and improvements for their clients, but customers like health insurance companies expect quantifiable demonstration of impact. With support from The Barra Foundation, new software will replace 20-year-old technology that’s inflexible and cumbersome.

Technology will help MANNA transform their business model, but their ability to track data will also have a positive impact beyond the organization’s walls. If, for instance, MANNA can track the return of former clients—which it can’t do now because the program overwrites new intake information on old forms—it can potentially identify failures in other parts of the social safety net that can be improved.

Investments in research and technology paid off. MANNA’s new insurance company customers will enable the organization to reach thousands more clients through their health insurance providers. But above all else, simply: “It’s about serving our clients better,” Laverty said.

Feed a cold? Cure the flu with chicken soup? It turns out that these age-old techniques have the right idea: food can and should be treated as medicine for physical ailments. Philadelphia-based nonprofit, MANNA, believes in the power of nutrition to treat chronic and acute illnesses. Their delivery of medically-appropriate meals and nutritional counseling to a thousand local residents saves around $130 million in annual healthcare costs. Now their challenge is to demonstrate that value to their biggest customers yet: health insurance companies.

“We want medically-appropriate meals to be a standard part of healthcare.”

Ann Hoskins-Brown, MANNA’s director of Policy and Institutional Affairs



Story provided by The Barra Foundation

Illustration by Narrator Design

Healthy Holiday Eating

Posted on: November 18th, 2016 by manna

Healthy Holiday Eating

The holiday season has arrived!  According to the National Institutes of Health, the additional calories associated with holiday meals can result in an extra pound or two of weight gain every year. Maintaining healthy eating habits from the summer may seem like a challenge during the holiday season but it is possible! With these simple tricks you can enjoy your holiday celebrations guilt free.

  • Plan your meals ahead of time to control that grumbling stomach all day. Start by mapping out the day and when your largest meal will be. If you over eat at a meal, try to make the next meal lighter. Also it is best not to arrive to the party on an empty stomach.
  • Survey the food options before as to not overload the plate with high calorie foods. This will also help with controlling portion sizes.
  • Remember this is a time for family so try and engage in conversation with others while eating more slowly to savor the flavor. It gives your brain more time to realize it is satisfied and delays the urge to overeat.
  • Bring/make a healthy dish so you can spoil yourself on a less calorie dense item. Try to include: fruits, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and/or limit the amount of salt in the dish. This not only gives back control but will sure be a crowd pleaser at any event.
  • Stay active even though the chilly season may bring out the couch potato in all of us, planning to exercise will burn off those unwanted pounds. Indulge in winter activities like sledding, ice skating, a brisk walk before the sun goes down, or become involved at a community center for a game of basketball.
  • Treat yourself with desserts. Tempting as it is, try a treat or two in small portions instead of a full serving. The line to the dessert table may be a mile long, so cut out the stress by going last. The less options will make choosing healthy alternatives easier. Just limit the amount of toppings.


These Gingerbread applesauce waffles will keep you full all day until it is time to feast.

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups low fat milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup Applesauce, chunky works too!
Lite Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and applesauce. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not over stir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

American Diabetes Month

Posted on: October 31st, 2016 by manna

Each year, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes making it the 7th leading cause of death, which is more deadly than AIDS and breast cancer combined.  In FY 2016, approximately 30% of the MANNA client population had diabetes as either a primary or coexisting condition making it one of the most common chronic illnesses served.  It is MANNA’s mission to help lessen the comorbidities and complications associated with diabetes that can become severe by providing nutrition counseling and our diabetic diet modification through our home-delivered meals service. Many of the complications of diabetes are common and can cause serious, long-term consequences including: hypoglycemia, hypertension, dyslipidemia, 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, 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).

By balancing the food you eat, taking medications, and incorporating daily exercise you can lower your risk and control the disorder leading to a happy, healthy life. Eating healthy is the key to maintaining weight and preventing the onset of diabetes. But where should you start? Make small steps and goals to achieve a healthier lifestyle over time. Start by picking a few goals listed below every month and once you have succeeded try a few more:

  1. Make half your plate full of a variety of fruits and vegetables
  2. Be physically active for 30 minutes a day like walking, jogging, or biking.
  3. Decrease the amount of sodium in your diet by removing the salt shaker from the table, prepackaged foods, and/or rinsing all canned items.
  4. Buy whole grain products like brown rice and whole wheat pastas and breads
  5. Incorporate leaner protein options like chicken and turkey in your meals
  6. Try starting every meal with a salad
  7. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use
  8. Relieve the everyday stress that may buildup
  9. Become informed on medications that can raise your blood sugar
  10. Check your blood sugars routinely or your A1C monthly

American Diabetes Association Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes

Stay healthy and make a difference in your community by teaming up against diabetes and joining MANNA’s team on November 5, 2016 for the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes event. It can be as easy as donating toward the MANNA team or you can join them and participate in the 5K walk or run! Register here.


Observe National Food Day with MANNA

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by 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




voting advocacy

Posted on: September 26th, 2016 by manna

MANNA’s Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Adrian Glass is working hard on an advocacy initiative to get more of our clients and volunteers voting in the general election. In an effort to get our clients registered to vote, Adrian is sending out fliers and registration forms with our drivers that explain the process and the benefits of voting. There will also be an absentee ballot application in case they are unable to make it to their polling location on Election Day (November 8). Adrian is encouraging our volunteers to vote when they enter MANNA too with the same resources. We are aiming to eliminate any potential barriers our clients or volunteers may face in exercising their right to vote!

Why should you vote? Voting is one of our most important rights as citizens. Communities that vote get more attention from office holders. Our children, and anyone under 18 years old, depend on us to represent their voices as well. Voting is easy and even if you cannot make it to your polling place, you can mail an absentee ballot instead. MANNA and our clients rely on support from the local and state government so it is essential that we make our voices heard!

If you are not already registered to vote, or if any of your information has changed, you can register online HERE if you have a PA Drivers License. The last day to register in time for the general election is October 11.




Location Map with Link to Google Maps
The Steven Korman
Nutrition Center

2323 Ranstead St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
T: 215.496.2662

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