Healthy meals are often pushed aside by the tyranny of the urgent. I would like to share some steps, or prompts, that will enable you to eat your best to feel your best.
Eating healthy does not require bringing out all the pots and pans and working for hours in the kitchen. Julia Child, the famous American chef, author and television personality said “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients”.
Fresh ingredients and a small pantry of staples will allow you to quickly put together meals and snacks. We are looking for balance. Build your foundational diet on nutrient-rich whole foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Look for minimally processed ingredients and steer clear of artificial additives.
Specifically, cancer healthy eating includes 8-10 servings of phytonutrient rich foods daily. Phytonutrients are substances in plant foods that work at the cell level to fight cancer. The typical American diet rarely has 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. So focus on this goal alone--Always asking the question, “How can I add a vegetable or fruit to this meal?”
A second important step is including a lean protein in your meal or snack. Lean proteins are nonfat or low-fat dairy, beans/legumes, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, nuts and seeds. Protein will give you a sense of satiety (satisfaction) to help with weight management (cancer healthy is achieving a healthy body weight). A carbohydrate, when combined with protein, also helps maintain better blood sugar levels.
So as you consider meals, be sure each meal includes at least 3 food groups and a snack includes 2 food groups. Improve a typical breakfast of toast and coffee by adding a protein and a fruit or vegetable. Examples of Cancer Healthy Breakfasts would be:
- Toast with nut butter and banana slices
- Toast with hummus and tomato slices
- Yogurt Parfait (yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts or crunchy cereal)
- Poached egg, avocado toast
- Scrambled egg with spinach and whole grain toast
- Whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, low fat dairy or plant milk
- Oatmeal with walnuts and fresh berries
Plan for a protein-based snack with a fruit or vegetable for the times when you likely to overeat. Satisfying snack items are: Hummus or bean dip on crackers or vegetables; plain yogurt flavored with vanilla extract on top of cut-up fruit; nut butter on a piece of fruit or a vegetable; small portion of a nut and dried fruit mix. Ensuring a 2 food group snack will help you limit the times you are ready to devour typical snack items of crackers, chips, cookies and other sweets.
As you consider lunch and dinner, again, ask the question, “How can I add a vegetable or fruit to this meal?” Being conscious of this one goal will move you closer to eating Cancer Healthy!
Charis W. Spielman, MPH, RD, CSO, CNSC
Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition
Certified Nutrition Support Clinician