Healthy Eating and the Holidays
A healthy diet can greatly reduce your risk for cancer. Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board Member Tanya Zuckerbrot, a Registered Dietitian in private practice in New York City and the Founder of the popular F-Factor Diet, shares the following tips to help you keep yourself and your diet in check over the holidays:
PITCH IN, (OR TRY TO) – If you’re not hosting this year, contact whoever is and offer to bring something. Even if the host tells you it is unnecessary to bring anything, simply say “I’d love to participate. What are you planning on serving?” By doing this, you can learn ahead of time what is being served at that gathering, giving yourself the opportunity, and ample time, to think about the food choices you will make there, and leading up to the meal. If the host concedes to letting you bring something, the fork is in your hand to bring a healthy/ healthier version of a dish.
SPOIL YOUR APPETITE – Don’t go into a holiday gathering or festive meal hungry. Instead, have a satisfying snack beforehand that includes both fiber and protein. Fiber and protein are the two nutrients that take the longest to digest, so they keep you feeling full for a longer period of time. By filling up before you go, you safeguard yourself from arriving in a ravenous fury of hunger, tempted to make irresponsible food choices. Good pre-party snack ideas include an apple with a handful of almonds, high fiber crackers with sliced turkey or Greek yogurt and blueberries. Also make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day as dehydration often mimics the symptoms of hunger, and thus can further cause you to overeat.
PORTION CONTROL – Although the holiday season is full of indulgent celebrations, remember to celebrate the actual HOLIDAY, it’s one day. Be mindful of both what you choose to eat and the amount you consume. Do not go up for seconds or thirds. When making your plate, start with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. For a visual cue, imagine your dinner plate as a peace sign, the two side portions are each 35 percent and the bottom is 30 percent. Put lean protein (6 oz for men, 3-4 oz for women) on one side and vegetables on the other. The starchy sides or dessert gets the smaller bottom section.
SAY “NO, THANK YOU” – Remember, you’re invited to the holiday gathering for your charming personality – not your ability to lick all the plates clean. People often feel pressured to eat, and overeat, as to not be rude to the host, and think everyone will notice and judge if they do not try a dish. In reality, there’s little chance anyone will even notice that you didn’t try everything. It’s okay to say “no, thank you”! If you’re still concerned, play it down and say, “everything was delicious. I’m full” or ” try me later.” Then sit back and enjoy the rest of the evening and the food that you decided to eat.
KEEP A FOOD DIARY – Writing down every morsel of food that you eat during this tricky time of year will help keep you accountable and focused on your health and nutrition goals. It is easy to forget about the 5 peanut M&M’s you grabbed off your co-workers desk, or the Santa cookie you grabbed after the meeting, but you will be much less likely to grab for these treats if you know you have to write them down in your journal later.
The importance of healthy eating for cancer prevention:
Research has found that a higher consumption of plant foods can be protective against certain cancers. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants which help the body protect against oxidative damage DNA. This oxidative damage can lead to mutations and increased risk of cancer.
Plant based foods also contain dietary fiber. Consumption of dietary fiber has also been linked to reduced cancer risk, especially breast and colorectal cancer. As reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (July, 2004) researchers found that a diet including 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day can lower blood estrogen levels, which can help reduce risk for breast cancer as estrogen stimulates the early growth and development of breast cancer—the less estrogen you have in your body, the lower your cancer risk. In terms of colon cancer specifically, but true for all cancers (except skin cancers) fiber helps reduce risk by binding to or diluting carcinogens in the gut (from toxins in our food supply and environment) and speeding them through the colon. By getting toxins out of our system before they can cause damage is one of the things we can do to protect ourselves. In addition, regular elimination is, by itself, beneficial to your overall health.