Fresh Start

Changing eating habits may help keep cancer at bay

By Joan Daniels, R.D., and
Nancy Burke, R.D.

Your treatment has ended, but you're looking for ways to keep up the fight, to stop the cancer from coming back. Look no further than your refrigerator.

Eating for treatment is quite different than eating for survivorship. During treatment, our goal is to help you maintain your weight as it is. Your appetite still may be diminished for some time after treatment ends. Food may continue to taste different for a while, too. But when you do start to feel more like eating, consider it an opportunity to take charge of what you eat.

A lot of studies have shown the nutrients in certain plant-based foods can help prevent cancer. But we're still learning how these chemicals work together. That's why we don't recommend nutritional supplements beyond a general multi-vitamin, if it's approved by your doctor.

For cancer prevention, the best advice is the simplest:

  • Eat mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Be physically active however you can for at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Aim for a healthy weight throughout your life.

These are the general guidelines offered by the American Institute for Cancer Research. What does it mean to eat mostly plant foods? Think of your dinner plate. Now, start to consider all the vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes you could put on that plate. Pick vegetables from a variety of colors: dark green spinach, red beets, orange carrots, yellow squash. Go for a new whole grain, like quinoa or whole-wheat pasta. Puree some navy beans or make some lentil soup.

Then, once you've stocked your plate at least two-thirds full of these food groups, consider poultry or fish. Limit red meat (that includes pork) to no more than 18 ounces per week. And leave the hotdogs and bacon for special occasions.

This is a good time to experiment. Talk to your family about your goals and get them on board with finding delicious new approaches to foods you haven't tried before. If you need ideas, check out the Cancer Center's Recipes Just for You Web site.

If you want to lose weight, take this approach first. Your goal now isn't just to lose weight, but to find a way to eat healthy for the rest of your life. The weight loss will naturally follow, especially if you make a point of being physically active for 30 minutes a day.

Tips

Eat mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.

Be physically active however you can for at least 30 minutes per day.

Aim for a healthy weight throughout your life.

To make an appointment with a Cancer Center registered dietitian for personalized counseling, call 877-907-0859.

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Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2009