The cooking and planning that goes along with holiday meals can be overwhelming for anyone, and for cancer survivors (or anyone looking to eat a cancer preventive diet), celebration meals can be a real challenge.
On holidays and celebrations we tend to pull out all the comfort foods, which often don’t include a great deal of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. Research shows us that plants are our biggest cancer fighting foods! This includes any foods that come from a plant such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Eating a plant-based diet can mean different things to different people. Plant based eating might mean being vegan, it might mean being vegetarian, or it might simply mean making plants a bigger part of each meal but still eating smaller portions of animal proteins. Current cancer fighting recommendations are to fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods and to have animal proteins make up 1/3 or less of your meal. The American Institute for Cancer Research promotes “The New American Plate” as a fantastic visual for filling most of your plate with a variety of plant-based foods (photo from www.aicr.org). In this photo, you will see several non-starchy vegetables in a variety of colors, a serving of whole grain, and a small serving of lean protein that takes up just 1/3 of this plate. Eating more plants can help prevent new cancers and help prevent recurrence.
Now that you know plants are the biggest cancer fighters in our diet, it is important to find ways to add more into the meals and snacks we eat. Next we will focus on specific ideas and tips for adding that cancer fighting power to our holiday meals! While you wait, start celebrating the cancer fighting power of plant foods by filling 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans this week! Try increasing the portion of vegetables a recipe calls for, have more than one vegetable as a side dish, try snacking on fruit and nuts, and have whole wheat bread or pasta instead of refined white bread and pasta. You can even challenge yourself to try a new vegetable or cook a favorite vegetable in a new way! (I love mine roasted )
Look for additional tips coming your way where there will be more specific ideas for adding plants to holiday meals! If you have questions about today’s email, please reach out to me,
Erin Neuman, MS, RD, CSO
Clinical Dietitian – Oncology
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute
at Johnston Willis Hospital
1401 Johnston Willis Drive
Richmond, VA 23235