“Healthy Eating Habits for Everyone”
Mary Hollander RN
“Let your medicine be your food and your food be your medicine.” ~Hippocrates
During and after treatment whether by surgery, chemotherapy and or radiation therapy, the body has to expend more energy to fight cancer cells and to rebuild damaged cells caused by treatment. To be able to do this effectively the body requires a healthy, balanced diet that will provide the nutrients needed.
The optimal diet for everyone: Eat only what your Grandmother would recognize.
These are my general guidelines for a healthy, balanced and nutrient rich diet. Remember these are what you aspire to. Don’t try to do everything at once. That sets you up for failure. Change one part of your diet at a time. This is a process to make healthier choices that you can stick with not a fad diet for a week or two.
- Eat a balanced diet to get the vitamins, minerals and proteins that you need.
- Eat a varied diet of fruits & vegetables; a rainbow of colors. Fruits & vegetables are antioxidant rich. Eating a variety ensures that you receive all antioxidants not just one or two.
- Eat Whole grains. Nothing white; black, brown, wild or red rice as an example.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible; stay out of the center of the market.
- Eat Certified Organic fruits, vegetables & whole grains as much as you are able to afford. These will be pesticide free. Look at ewg.org for the current list of the “Dirty Dozen & Clean 15” to make this more affordable.
- Eat Certified Organic dairy and grass fed meats. Eat a minimal amount or avoid all together. Certified Organic means no antibiotics or growth hormones. Stores such as Ralphs & Costco are offering antibiotic free &/or growth hormone free meats that are not Certified Organic and cheaper. This is an affordable alternative. They also have grass fed and range free.
- Dairy is inflammatory and should be eaten in moderation. It also has natural occurring estrogen, even organic or raw dairy. Cows are kept pregnant, which increases the estrogen levels, to increase the milk production and to increase the length of time they can be milked. Estrogen is stored in fat, so if you are concerned about estrogen then use non-fat dairy.
- Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms/GMO’s. There has not been any long term research on how this will affect humans. Foods send thousands of bits of information to the body. Changing those pathways by genetically modifying it will change the information sent. There are no GMO’s in Certified Organic food. We have a right to know what is in our food so we can make informed choices. Many companies are using the Non-GMO label on their packages. Watch for this label even on non-organic products.
Think of the plate as your day or your meal.
- 50% of your plate/day should be vegetables/fruit
- 25% of your plate/day should be whole grains
- 25% of your plate/day should be mixed protein; each kind of protein provides different nutrients. Mix it up during your week.
- Minimal added oils: Extra Virgin Olive oil, Avocado & Grapeseed are examples of healthy oils.
- Minimal dairy; buy Certified Organic to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in dairy.
- No tobacco
- Limit Alcohol consumption to special occasions.
- Soy: Tempeh, Miso, & Edamame Beans are the types of soy that are protective. Limit Tofu & soy milk as they are highly processed. This is a controversial subject for breast cancer patients. My recommendation is to simply stay away from processed soy & soy added to packaged foods.
- Eat when you are hungry but don’t skip a meal: largest meal should be what we call lunch.
- Avoid sugary drinks: Fruit juices are sugar too! A 4-6 oz cup of juice a day is ok. Your body reacts the same way to juice as it does to colas. Juices are healthier but should be used in moderation. Without the fiber to moderate how fast the sugar, fructose, enters the blood stream, it enters it quickly. Carrot juice does the same thing. It is healthier to eat the whole food.
- Anything with High Fructose corn syrup should be avoided; read the ingredients on the labels. It also goes under the name “corn sugar”.
- Do not replace a meal with juice/smoothies or protein bars; use them between meals for a healthy snack. A smoothie for breakfast is okay if it contains whole foods & not juices
- Keep healthy snacks in the house; Dried fruit, nuts, & crackers with peanut butter, string cheese or baby bell cheese. Fruit cut into bite sizes along with veggies in bite sizes are good choices. Experiment with new vegetables, fruits and grains.
- Make your own high protein smoothies with fresh veggies & fruits added. Don’t forget that avocado is a great fruit to add to a smoothie to make it creamy and to add healthy calories and fat. Frozen bananas (freeze peeled) also make a thick creamy smoothie. Add nut butters to increase the protein and good fat. Add omega 3’s: Chia & Hemp seeds and/or healthy oils. Combine fruits with vegetables in your smoothie; 80% veggies & 20% fruits is a healthy ratio. Be creative not only with the combinations but also with added spices. Apple, carrot, kale, garlic & oranges are great together. Not sweet enough? Add a date. Look at our recipe page on the website for how to make a healthy smoothie.
- Drink water! Add a slice of cucumber, lemon, lime or mint leaves to make it more interesting.
- Limit fluids during meals as they fill you up.
- Eat your “comfort food” when you need it; no matter what it is. If you don’t, you will make bad choices to get the same feeling of “comfort” and take in more calories doing so!
Eat your medicine: Food has all the vitamins and minerals that you need & it is bio-available to your body.
- If you eat a balanced diet you don’t need most supplements.
- What supplements should you take? (Unless your physician has said otherwise)
- Take Vitamin D: 2,000 to 3,000 IU’s daily
- Take Omega 3’s: fish oil, flax seeds (grind before using), chia seeds &/or hemp seeds ; 2tabsp./day of the seeds.
- Calcium: only if your physician has told you your blood tests indicate you need it or you are not getting 1200 mgm/day in your diet. 1 cup of dairy = 300 mgm. The daily intake of fruits & veggies add another 300 mgm/day. Also, some of your dairy & grains may be fortified with calcium. Add that in too! Check any vitamins you are taking for added calcium as well.
- Supplements are not always bio-available to the body. Typically we are able to use 10 – 30% of the supplement. Whole foods are 100% bio-available.
- Choosing supplements is somewhat like a crap-shoot. What brand of supplements should you use? Not all companies are reliable. You may be getting more or less than what is indicated on the label. Where are they made? Where were the herbs grown (possible heavy metal problem)? Research the brand name and see if they have certifications by the supplement industry. Have they been tested by a 3rd party and do they offer the research data when asked?
- Check the ingredient list. Sometimes soy is added, fillers and herbs you don’t need or ones that may interact with over the counter drugs or prescription medications.
- Why are you spending money on these supplements? Did you hear about it on line, friends, relatives, on TV, or in line at the market? You need to make an informed decision about what to believe. Don’t fall for marketing targeting cancer patients in general. You are not a statistic, you are unique.
- Some foods and supplements are thought or even proven to reduce the risk of cancer. Find out what studies were done, who did them, where they were done, and if they were done on animals or humans. Were the studies done on your particular type of cancer, your gender & age group? What country was the study done in? Does it apply to you?
- Supplements & herbs do have side affects and do interact with other herbs, over the counter meds and prescription drugs. Factor in any other health problem you may have. Are you a diabetic, have high blood pressure, have organ involvement etc.?
- Supplements & herbs can take 3 to 6 weeks before you see a difference. They don’t work quickly like an aspirin.
- You can become Vitamin Toxic. It is rare but can happen. Take the recommended daily allowance, not more. Look at the Nutrition Panel on the bottle. Stay under 100% with each listing. Remember you are taking in natural vitamins & minerals in your diet.
Make changes in your diet one at a time over months not days. You want to make healthy changes that you and your family can stick to. These are guidelines. Choose what works for you.