Women in Food: 10 Questions With Sara Baer-Sinnott- President of Oldways

Women in Food: 10 Questions With Sara Baer-Sinnott- President of Oldways

I get to meet some amazing women thanks to my work. During my trip to Boston in October, I had a fantastic meeting with Sara Baer-Sinnott who is the president of Oldways. Sara will explain more about Oldways below, but here's what I'll tell you about my experience. I first came across Oldways on Twitter as a dietetics student. They've always been a fantastic resource (and legitimate and highly researched) I know I can trust. Oldways is one of the leaders when it comes to knowledge on whole grains, the Mediterranean diet and also specific regional diets (eg African Heritage and Health). But what really impressed me was talking with Sara about what's new in her world. Besides traveling the world (the picture below is her in Ethiopia), Sara and Oldways have worked to find common ground in a positive way in the nutrition world.

I don't have to tell you all twice: nutrition can be a nasty business. Really. It can be catty and rude and ultra negative. It's like intense political or religious discussions. People believe what they want to believe and nothing you can say will change it. But Oldways knew there was a positive, common message we all could share in the world of nutrition. So they shut some nutrition experts in a room until they found common ground (I'm kidding-they did not lock anyone in a room). But those experts did find that between all of the different eating pattern factions, there were some ideals that we all should focus on. You can read the Common Ground Consensus on the Oldways website.  They mention the importance of sustainability and solid evidence of all kinds. Really, read it and you'll find yourself nodding. 



Sara Baer-Sinnott- President of Oldways

1. Tell us about yourself and your business.

Oldways is a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, and our mission is to improve health and well being through traditional diets and traditional foods.  We like to say let the old ways be your guide to health and well being!  We have a number of positive and practical programs to put this into practice:  Mediterranean, Whole Grains Council, Oldways Vegetarian Network, African Heritage & Health, Oldways Culinarias, Oldways Nutrition Exchange, Supermarket RD Symposium, and the Oldways Cheese Coalition.  

I’ve been at Oldways since 1992, almost since its beginning. Oldways is my passion and, in addition to my family, it is the most important thing in my life – educating others and making a difference in their lives.  

Sara at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence it would be….

I like to eat food that is simple, easy, whole, full of flavor and it’s especially nice if it reminds of a place or people or an event.  Eating like I’m in a Mediterranean country, with friends, is my idea of wonderful eating (and it turns out to be healthy too!).  

3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (different types)
  • Salt/Pepper and other spices like oregano, cumin, and mint
  • Lemon, onions and garlic
  • and Cheese!

4. It’s your birthday. What are you eating?

When I was growing up, it was always roast beef and angel food cake with pink frosting. Now – quite often I have found myself at an Oldways Conference in the US or Mediterranean countries – so in the Mediterranean, a birthday dinner is the local Mediterranean cuisine.  Fish, vegetables, pasta, interesting grains, and as at home, birthday cake!  Last year, we held our Finding Common Ground Conference in November, and the opening reception was my birthday dinner featuring dishes from the four Oldways cultural models for healthy eating --Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and African Heritage Diet Pyramids. 

5. Signature cocktail?

  • For wines – Sancerre or Rioja

  • Cocktail -- Mojito

6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?

It’s terrible to say, but it’s oatmeal. It goes back to my camp days in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and having to eat really horrible oatmeal and cream of wheat. I’ve never gotten over it, even though I try again and again…

7. What are your go-to resources for all things food (websites/magazines/groceries)? 

Oldways, of course!  Other than Oldways, I always consult the Harvard School of Public Health’s website.  I read David Katz’ blogs.  I have the luxury of a large cookbook library at home and at Oldways, so I use a number of cookbooks.  Some of my favorite cookbook authors are:  Deborah Madison, Aglaia Kremezi, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Ana Sortun, Jesse Cool, and Ina Garten.  Plus, the people who work at Oldways are, for the most part, really good cooks.  I love learning from each of them.  

Another inspiration: Home cooks who don’t need recipes – and are able (seemingly effortlessly) to put together meals (and dinner parties). Georgia Orcutt at Oldways, and a longtime friend, Paula Hughes, inspire me to be daring in the kitchen. 

8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?

Gluten free AND low-carb.  

9. Must have kitchen tool:


10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?

The movement toward more plants on the plate is something Oldways has been working toward since its early days.  However, this year, I’ve seen so much more about this, from different points of view. For example, Massachusetts’ ballot initiative 3 to improve the life of farm animals is another way (other than health) to look at this movement toward eating more plant foods.  There are so many reasons to eat more plants – health of people, health of the planet, animal welfare – and it’s exciting to see more and more people recognizing this.  


Want to learn more?

Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.