Eating healthy is important during and after cancer treatment. It’s also critical to a healthy lifestyle overall. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating a plant-based diet and maintaining a healthy body weight, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. With a little will power and adequate knowledge of how fruits and vegetables can support good health, anyone can make healthier meal choices
First and foremost, it is important to limit processed foods and move towards a plant-based diet. Diets high in plant foods contain fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of certain cancer types and recurrence. This, of course, is important all year-round. But with spring approaching, and in celebration of National Nutrition Month, I wanted to share 10 tips for substituting healthy foods in your everyday recipes—as a “spring cleaning” of sorts.
• Move to leaner meats. Eat more chicken, fish or turkey. For chili, which already has a healthy base of beans and tomatoes, try using extra-lean turkey instead of ground beef.
• Use veggies in place of main ingredients. A great way to incorporate more veggies is by using them as a baking substitute. For example, use cauliflower as the main ingredient for a pizza crust or riced cauliflower in fried rice.
• Freeze fruit for dessert. Grapes, bananas and orange slices are wonderful alternatives to ice cream and other frozen treats.
• Substitute baking fats with applesauce, avocados, yogurt, bananas, beans or dried fruits blends. Some items such as puff pastries, pies or Danishes cannot be made without baking fats. For goods that can be substituted, increase the amount of leavening agents (i.e. baking soda).
• Replace refined flours in baked goods with whole grains (quinoa, oats, barley or rice), beans or starches (tapioca, potato, rice or corn).
• Limit added sugars. One can of soda contains approximately 39 grams of sugar. This is equivalent to nine teaspoons of sugar. If you need to use a sweetener, use one derived from natural sources, such as Stevia.
• Use low-fat ingredients for loaded baked potatoes. Top your potato with broccoli, salsa, low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt rather than sour cream, butter and cheese.
• Swap out maple syrup on waffles or pancakes. Fruits or applesauce can still give a sweet flavor, but greatly reduces the amount of sugar.
• Reduce empty calorie intake found in juices, punches and alcohol. Flavored or infused waters and tea are good alternatives. Berries and citrus can perk up water.
Remove processed foods from your diet, such as refined grains, chips, cookies, candy, soda, canned goods and pre-packaged meats. Replace these with fruit, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, beans, trail mix, popcorn, guacamole and low-fat cheese.
Aside from its potential anti-cancer benefits, a plant-based diet may help you boost your energy levels, maintain a healthy weight and make you feel better overall. Also be mindful about controlling your portions and eating slowly, savoring each bite. Lastly, couple a healthy diet with roughly 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week.