The African Diet Pyramid and Cooking Classes (Our Ancestors Ate Farm-to-Table Before It Was Cool)

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They knew how to eat.
How ever did our ancestors survive before the vast selection in the Publix frozen food aisle? Before the every-corner convenience of McDonald's? Before pizza delivery???

Well, they managed to slide by somehow, and probably for the better. In fact, according to food-friendly nonprofit Oldways, we should be digging into the past for some inspiration on how to eat better today.

Oldways, whose tagline is "health through heritage", is an organization that promotes healthy eating based on region-specific food pyramids. Most recently, Oldways has crafted a series of cooking classes around its African Diet Pyramid. The classes are currently being piloted in 15 cities across the U.S., one of which is right here in Fort Lauderdale.

"We're trying to reclaim and revitalize African food heritage, to go further back in time than traditional 'soul food'," said Sarah Dwyer, Program Manager at Oldways.

This ain't no fried chicken, guys. The African Diet Pyramid is rich in beans, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and tubers, such as sweet potatoes and yucca. The 6-week class series aims to introduce the common foods that make up the pyramid to attendees, explaining each one's historical significance and nutritional value. The second portion of the class is dedicated to the good stuff- cooking an easy recipe for all to enjoy.

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The Fort Lauderdale classes are unlike the rest of the pilots, however, because they're being taught to a group of children rather than adults.

"It was something organic that just came up," explained Dywer. "We've got this class with kids, and then we've got a class with senior citizens. We're experimenting to see how much reach this program can potentially have."

Around 10 kids, ages 4-5, at Paradise Child Care Center in Fort Lauderdale are getting schooled on Oldways' homegrown diet pyramid. A small group of 2 to 3-year-olds join the class for the second portion, to taste the food and learn what each item is called.

"This is where patterns start," said Tracy Anne Spence, Director at Paradise Child Care. "This is the age where there is potential to influence life-long eating choices."


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