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Five best bet guidelines for a cancer-friendly, healthful diet

Contributed by Nancy Burke, R.D., Danielle Karsies, M.S., R.D., CSO, and Melissa Shannon-Hagen, R.D., CSO, U-M Rogel Cancer Center Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program

Anyone who likes to read articles about diet and nutrition knows that the topic can get pretty complicated depending on the source and the story. One minute, red wine is good for your heart; the next, all alcohol is bad for you. Sugar is another food with conflicting reports. It seems impossible to keep track of all the information.

When it comes to diet and cancer, the Rogel Cancer Center dietitians help patients simplify. Rather than feeling stressed about choosing the wrong food or drink, remember that moderation is the key. Below are some best-bet guidelines to follow during and after cancer treatment. As for dessert? It’s fine, as long as you stick to small portions and eat a balanced diet.

1. Use the plate method

This includes paying attention to the food on your plate at every meal. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein and one-quarter with whole grains. This is the formula for a well-balanced meal.

2. In living color

Colorful fruits and vegetables often contain valuable nutrients that can protect against cancer and prevent recurrence. Eating a well-rounded diet by combining a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes creates a synergistic effect that helps promote good health and lower disease risk.

3. Limit red meat and processed meat to 18 ounces per week

Lean meats, such as chicken breast, turkey or fish, are a great way to get the protein your body needs to heal. Some patients try a plant-based diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

4. Cut back on drinking alcohol

Limit alcoholic beverages to one per day for women and two per day for men. Alcohol has been linked to certain cancers; ask your health care team what is best for you based on your diagnosis and treatment plan.

5. Try to move every day

A healthful lifestyle is never complete without some physical activity. Start small with activities like walking around the block or dancing to music you enjoy. Aim for 10-minute increments and build from there.

Check out cancer-friendly recipes from the Rogel Cancer Center dietitians.

Continue reading about nutrition and cancer prevention

Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2020