Lifestyle tips for prevention and survivorship. Keeping you well beyond cancer! My goal is to help you find a nutrition plan that works for you. Whether you're facing cancer or you're doing what you can to reduce your risk, I'd love to help! Run by Julie.
Are you confused about what is fact when it comes to nutrition and cancer? Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should eat but you wonder which suggestions actually have evidence. In this session, I cover:
popular nutrition myths
5 core truths about nutrition and cancer
nutrition tips for managing side effects
what to eat for optimal well-being for cancer survivors during and after treatment
practical methods to decide what’s right for you!
This is the recording of the webinar I for Triage Cancer about 2 weeks ago, so they have an intro at the beginning that takes the first 4:33. FYI!
Triage Cancer Webinar: Cancer Nutrition - Tips & Truths Recording - Vimeo
Phew! Things have been busy for me the last few weeks! I did a cooking workshop (recipes to come in a future post), writing, doing classes and getting ready for 2 talks at the YSC Summit 2018. I’m starting to get caught up and look forward to sharing some fun things that I pulled together.
Now that you’ve set some goals for your healthy lifestyle, it’s time to pick out some ways to reward yourself. Rewards should not always be food. Actually, it’s probably a good idea NOT to use food.
Many people have been rewarded with food for a majority of their life. Just think about your school classroom. Good behavior is often rewarded with candy. How do you celebrate holidays or birthdays? Cake. It’s all fun and games until you begin to associate the feeling of joy/happiness/job well done with the food itself.
The food becomes an emotional attachment and you begin to think that the food can give you that feeling of happiness. Often times, that is the reason that we want to eat when we’re stressed or depressed. We see the food as providing us with that feeling of happiness and love. This is termed “emotional eating”.
To redirect the emotional eating habit, you will need to find a way to reward yourself that is healthy. Think of the things that you like that aren’t food related. If your goal is a long term goal, then you might want to make the reward a bigger one. Don’t forget to set those short term (weekly) goals. Reward the small steps with smaller rewards as you work towards the bigger goals.
Here are some examples of healthy rewards:
Massage or other “spa” related item.
Health related magazine (Nutrition Action, Health, Vegetarian Times).
Necklace or other jewelry
Box of your favorite tea
Smelly soap or bubble bath
Long term rewards:
iPod or MP3 player
Rewarding yourself is an important way to help you reach your goals. Use an incentive to keep yourself motivated in making a healthy change and reducing your cancer risk.
In order for any attempt at changing behavior to be effective, the intention needs to be specific and realistic. Always run them by a friend, since they can help you identify if your goal is realistic or you or not.
When you first make a change, it is essential that you start with an achievable (read: EASY!) short term goal. These would be ones that you would achieve in a week or a month.
Long term goals are ones that take 4 months or longer to achieve. Long term goals require several short term goals along the way.
Most New Year’s resolutions are long term goals. They are often not achieved because appropriate short term goals weren’t set along the way. Most of the time I recommend short-term goals to start with.
It’s a lot more fun to celebrate after a week of achieving something, then having to wait for several months to see if you were successful!
Let’s get started!
Hopefully you’ve already been thinking of one or two areas to work on. Remember, 3 at the most! I’ll give you my example for this season of my life.
I have a 6 month old and trying to plan and prepare dinner has been a challenge for us as parents, as it is for many of my clients!
For the most part, we’ve been barely getting by and just grabbing whatever we can find to eat in the fridge or pantry. It works, but it causes me stress to not know ahead what we are going to have. Especially as I start getting hungry!
Another benefit to making sure that I have meals made up in the evening is that I get leftovers to take for lunch. Without a packed lunch I’m stuck wondering what to eat for lunch, or not eating enough which is a recipe for a hangry woman – not good for anyone, ha!!
My long term goal would be to plan meals, and have a month menu framework to utilize. In order to reach the long term goal, I need to set my short term goals.
I need them to be specific (measurable) and realistic (achievable). In order to achieve this goal, I should identify what steps I need to take. By writing down the steps in achieving the goal it helps me to see what small things I need to do to move towards reaching the goal.
My short term goals will be to:
Make a list of family favorite recipes.
Make a list of foods that I can purchase at the store that makes dinner quick and easy.
Utilize google calendar to choose which recipes to make on each night. I will aim for recipes that can be made the night before, or in the crockpot or instant pot. Aim to do this prior to Sunday grocery shopping!
Grocery shop on Sundays.
Another essential step to achieving positive lifestyle change is setting up rewards, at least for the first several weeks. I’ll talk more about rewards in the next article.
Maybe you have a long term goal to increase intake of fruits and vegetables (a good goal for most people!) You would need to set several short term goals to meet that.
Here are some things that might help:
Make a list of fruit/vegetables snacks that I like and put it on the fridge as a reminder.
Sign up for healthy recipes to be sent to my email.
Try a new way to prepare a fruit or vegetable once a week.
Sign up for a healthy cooking class.
Shop for fresh fruits and vegetables twice a week.
Keep fresh fruit out in a bowl on the counter or kitchen table.
Keep track of fruit and vegetable intake on the nutrition tracker.
Here are some other specific and achievable healthy eating/ wellness resolutions:
I will do 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week.
I will eat fruits and/or vegetables 5 times/day.
I will Drink 8 cups of water daily.
I will not drink more than 36 oz. of soda per week.
I will try cooking a new healthy recipe once a week.
In the next post I will talk about tracking progress and rewarding yourself. You can start thinking about some positive, non-food based rewards for celebrating successes.
If you’re someone thinking about making a positive change, feel free to share your resolution by posting in the comments. I’ll be happy to give you feedback.
If you’re not ready to make a change – don’t worry about it! Reward yourself for the positive things you’re doing already and check back with yourself in a month or two.
2018 is here and many people have set New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, I recommend that people don’t set resolutions, because they typically have the wrong attitude about it and then don’t make lasting changes.
But is it possible to make resolutions that result in positive life change? Yes! And there’s absolutely no reason why this is a process that can only happen at the beginning of a New Year. It should be an ongoing process that we engage in!
The Wrong Way To Set Resolutions
Most people set themselves up to fail because they set resolutions that are completely unrealistic OR they are ineffective because they are not specific enough.
Here are some examples of unrealistic resolutions:
I will not eat ______ this year. (“I’m not eating any more sugar… ever”!).
I will walk every morning this year. (“I’m going to make myself walk, even when it’s 8 degrees outside!”).
I will stop buying things new and save the earth this year. (“I’m going to quit buying anything”).
There is danger in setting unrealistic resolutions. These resolutions aren’t achievable. No one can do anything ALL THE TIME. You need to give yourself room for moderation.
People who set resolutions like these end up failing pretty quickly. When resolutions aren’t met, the emotional consequences of failure are remembered and guilt builds up.
This failure can be the biggest barrier to reaching future goals.
Here are some examples of ineffective resolutions:
I will exercise more this year. (“I didn’t really exercise before, so that shouldn’t be too hard!”)
I’m going to start cooking this year. (“I don’t really know how, but I guess I’ll figure it out.”)
This year I will eat clean. (“Clean eating is what everyone is talking about so it must be good”.)
The problem with these resolutions is that they are way too vague! They won’t be achieved because there’s no way to measure if you’ve done it or not. This will leave you distracted and not focused on the things that you really want to achieve this coming year.
Now that you know what doesn’t work, I’ll spend the next post discussing ways to make positive changes that will stick for a year, and beyond!
As “pre-work”, start by picking your priorities. You cannot change everything at once, so pick no more than 3 specific areas that you want to work on.
I made this recipe at Thanksgiving last week. I’m not really a pumpkin pie person, but I feel like it’s necessary to have it at Thanksgiving just because it’s tradition. I went to share the recipe with someone and couldn’t find it anywhere on my website. Apparently, I never posted it! I figure… better late than never. : – )
Originally this was one of Chef Malena’s creations. I’m still sad she moved away to DC because she was so fun and creative! She did it for our cooking workshop a year ago as sweet potato pie. I basically substituted the pumpkin for sweet potato in her recipe and it turned out great.
Since I’m not a huge traditional pie crust person, I bought a graham cracker crust from the grocery store. Next time I might even try a chocolate graham cracker crust.
This recipe uses flaxseed meal as the egg substitute, which is pretty cool! You just need to soak the flax in warm water for 15 minutes or so before you mix it in. Flax is a great way to add extra plant nutrients.
First off, there’s something important you need to know about eating on special occasions.
YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO OVEREAT!
I know, it seems crazy to think that a dietitian is telling you to eat too much.
Here’s the truth:
Our bodies are made to go through feast as well as famine.
We should feast (“eat too much”) sometimes.
There will be times that we eat smaller meals. When you’re sick, or just not that hungry.
So there you have it. Permission to overeat at Thanksgiving!
However… please don’t overeat every day between Thanksgiving and New Years, ha! That’s when your special occasion has turned into a habit.
The Facts About Holiday Weight Gain
Many people stress out about all the weight they are going to gain during the holidays. We make jokes about it, and then excuses for why we’re eating what we’re eating, and then blanket ourselves in guilt. Guess what? That’s not necessary!!
The fact is that people actually don’t gain that much during the holidays. I was able to find 2 different studies that followed people during the holidays and the gain was about 1 pound. One. Pound. Let’s not freak out or spend too much mental energy on that!
However, we should definitely enjoy all the wonderful flavors of our favorite holiday foods! Especially if there are kids around you during the holidays. We don’t need to set them up to have anxiety or guilt around holiday meals. Instead, we can teach them how much fun it is to prepare delicious family recipes!
I think that most people who are in touch with their body’s cues for hunger and fullness will actually balance their calories just fine during the holidays. It’s not necessary to count things or avoid your favorite foods.
For people going through cancer treatment, it can be sad and frustrating when the foods that you typically enjoy around the holidays don’t taste right. Or maybe you don’t feel much like eating at all. In these cases, I encourage you to find ways to enjoy the other holiday traditions. I thought this article has a helpful perspective:
I do recognize that the holiday season can be challenging to focus on nourishment because on top of the special days, you also have parties at work and with your social life. And then people send you home with extra sweets.
Here are 5 common sense tips to help you with those “between days.”
Maintain your physical activity!
One of the best ways to make sure your body stays healthy during the holidays is to maintain your physical activity! Don’t let your extra holiday activities crowd these out. You can also make it a point to include physical activity in your holiday activities. Go for walks with your friends as a way to catch up, and also stay fit.
Keep getting fruits and veggies.
Don’t cut back on the amount of fruits and veggies and nutritious foods that you eat. Your body still needs them, so make sure they are on your plate throughout the holiday season!
Enjoy each bite.
When you are eating your holiday meals, don’t rush! Enjoy each bite and respect your body when it says it is full. Maybe you eat some of EVERYTHING. Yes, even the desserts! But you might serve smaller portions so that you don’t feel the pressure to eat even after you’re stuffed. You can always go back for seconds if you really loved something and didn’t get enough.
Your body needs to stay hydrated throughout the winter months. With the heat blowing, and dry air all around, you might not notice when you’re low on fluids. Water is your best choice for hydration, however, if you want a special beverage try a club soda or seltzer water with lemon.
Focus the conversation on the positive. Make a point to compliment the cooks on the taste of the food. Keep the conversation on the company, what you’re grateful for and how great it is to be around friends and family. Topics to avoid? Weight gain, how “healthy” the food is or isn’t, and POLITICS! : – D
It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, on Nov 12, 2007, I wrote my very first article. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing back then (and I can’t say I do now either haha!). But I knew I wanted a place that I could send my clients to get reliable information about nutrition and cancer.
At the time, my friend Jeff, was facing a melanoma diagnosis. He encouraged me to help survivors to know how to optimize nutrition after treatment, get in shape, and live as well as they could. In fact, having a website was actually his idea! I doubt I would’ve even explored the idea with his encouragement.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned more about nutrition and cancer, but also about communicating with people near and far. Videos and webinars are really great ways for me to teach classes. It’s so much easier to record something so it can be available for viewing and learning later on. I’ve also done far more recipe articles than I ever imagined!
For those who have been with me since the early days, I THANK YOU! You have provided such valuable feedback and helped me to change, adapt and to have interesting things to write about.
For those of you who are newer to the party, I am so glad you’re here. Walking alongside someone newly diagnosed always reminds me that my information is still relevant and helpful.
Support Cancer Dietitian!
Do you want a way to say THANK YOU for this unbiased resource? There are some easy and practical ways to support Cancer Dietitian . com! It is paid for by Cancer Services, the non-profit I work for, so all financial support goes to fund our programs that enhance health, life and survivorship!
Do you have ideas on what would be helpful to share on the site? Let me know! Do you prefer written articles, videos, webinars or podcasts? I would love to hear your thoughts so I can plan out my next year of content.
Just for fun, I thought you might like to see a list of the TOP 10 most popular pages on my site. I ran the report since Jan 2015, when the redesign of my site happened.
I like that topic since it focuses on the positive things that people can do with their eating habits. It helps people to understand the things that they should be eating MORE of, which is way more fun than keeping up with a list of foods that you’re “not allowed to have.”
However, we cannot overlook the things that we eat that do the opposite, and break down our body’s ability to protect us against disease. These foods are called “promoters” as research suggests they promote risk for disease.
Today’s article will focus on the foods that you want to eat only occasionally. Cookie Monster now sings it: “A cookie is a sometimes food”, instead of “cookie cookie cookie”! Maybe I should’ve named this article The Sometimes Foods List! : – )
Sesame Street - "A Cookie is a Sometime Food" - YouTube
What Nutrients Should We Eat Less Of?
Foods that fall under my “disease promoter” category are ones that are highin:
In other words, the “promoter foods” are foods that are not nutrient dense. They tend to be high in calorie and low in beneficial nutrients. Not the best combination!
Contrast that to a food that might be a source of saturated fat, but is also high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients – like avocados and nuts!
Also something to remember is that your body prefers nutrients in FOOD, not pill, or powder form. Sometimes you will find foods that have vitamins and minerals, and fiber on the nutrient facts label. However, when you look at the ingredient list, you find out that the nutrients were added to the food in powder form. We would prefer you get your nutrients in the food, as it was grown.
Foods to Eat Less of:
Here are some foods that fall under the “promoter category”:
From the meat group: Processed meats (like bacon, sausage, processed deli meats), red meat (keep to 18oz a week or less)
From the dairy group: Whole milk, cheese, ice cream, full fat yogurt, butter
From the fruit group: canned fruit in heavy syrup or high sugar jelly’s
From the vegetable group: canned vegetables with salt added, vegetables in cream sauce, french fries, potato chips
From the carbohydrate/grain group: high fat muffins, bagels, pancakes, donuts, cookies, refined crackers, white bread, white rice, white pasta
Sweetened drinks (soda, sweet tea or “juice/punch” drinks)
Before you get too upset, recognize that just because these foods fall under this category doesn’t mean that you NEVER get to eat them. However, you do need to keep your intake to a moderate level. When I think of having something occasionally, it would be 2 times per month or less.
If you are eating any of these foods 3 times a week or more, then it is considered a habit. Try to find replacements for the promoter foods that you are eating regularly. Here are some quick tips:
Choose lean meats or vegetarian protein (beans, nuts, tofu).
If you regularly consume milk, choose low fat.
Have small portions of cheese.
When appropriate, use monounsaturated oils instead of butter.
Eat whole grains instead of refined grains.
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables frequently.
Avoid sugar sweetened drinks, except for special occasions.
When you do choose “promoter foods”, keep your portions small to minimize the impact. Once you swallow, the fun’s over. Enjoy each bite slowly. You don’t need to eat a large amount to fulfill a craving!
Actually, I find Cookie Monster really does do a good job of explaining things!!
Sesame Street: Matt Lauer Interviews Cookie Monster - YouTube
Make smart choices and promote your health, not disease!
A lot of people want to know if they should eat any “superfoods” to make sure that they don’t get cancer, or that their cancer doesn’t come back. The truth is that there is no single food, or food substance that can prevent or cure cancer. But there are many beneficial foods!
Health Protector Foods
I think the most important part of healthy eating is to include the foods that provide your body with the nourishment it needs to function at it’s best. This means that most of the foods you eat are high in the health promoting nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. I call these foods “protectors“.
Protector foods include fruits, vegetables, minimally processed whole grains, nuts and legumes (dried beans). By getting a variety from each of these groups you will get a good array of nutrients to help fight cancer.
For more on phytochemicals, check out this article:
Things that you want to consider for choosing the right combination of foods is variety in food groups, and moderation in foods that are calorie dense.
Eating smaller portions of calorie dense “treats” or “cheats” is important in finding a healthy balance between foods that feed your body and foods that feed your soul.
Remember that if you think you need to lose weight, benefits can be seen with even a 5-10% decrease. Any change towards a healthy weight is beneficial. Instead of focusing on the scale, focus on how your body feels.
I am NOT a fan of strict diets, restrictive eating patterns or other ways that people often turn to in order to lose weight. More on that here:
I prefer that my clients focus on a mindful eating approach. I contract a dietitian (Debra Benfield) to do an 8 week program here at Cancer Services. They have just started and are on week 2 this week! If you want to learn more about Mindful Eating, Debra highly recommends these books. In fact, the group is using both the book and workbook with this year’s program!
If you’re interested in buying one or both, you can find them here on amazon:
After giving hundreds of talks about healthy eating for cancer, and answering questions and emails about what survivors should eat, I have come up with a list of the most common things that I recommend after reviewing clients food records.
Fruits and vegetables: 4-5 cups a day combined. It doesn’t matter to me whether you eat more veggies, or more fruit. Some recommendations will suggest 2 cups fruit + 3 cups veggies. I think whatever fruits and veggies will get on your fork, into your mouth, and swallowed is the right ones to eat!!
Beans, nuts and seeds: Have plant proteins at least once a day! Get a variety of types. Enjoy as snacks, on salads, in a sandwich, or any other way you enjoy.
100% Whole grains: 2-3 cups per day (cooked). 1 standard size slice of bread is equivalent to 1/2 cup.
Protein: 15- 25 grams at meals. I would not recommend getting more than 35 grams at a time as our bodies can’t utilize the extra very well all at once. More on that here: How Much Protein Do I Need?
Flavor: Use herbs & spices instead of salt based flavorings.
Looking over a food record is something you can do for yourself! Keep track for a week and compare what you eat to this guideline see if you matches pretty closely most of the time. Remember… not every day needs to be perfect for your body to be nourished.
Heather’s Synergistic Salad Recipe
Check out this recipe from a dietitian friend of mine, Heather Katcher PhD, RD. It’s delicious and packed with nutrients! The tofu adds protein to the salad. You can also add chopped walnuts for a little more protein.
It’s synergistic because it combines things from multiple parts of the daily health protector foods list!