The traditional Native American diet had a lot of things going for it. For example, it included beans, peas, lentils – foods that contain dietary fiber, folic acid, isoflavones, and other compounds that have been shown to reduce cancer risk. Dark green leafy vegetables and deep yellow vegetables such as squash were staples of the traditional Native diet – and those foods are high in carotenoids and antioxidants, which contain cancer preventive properties. It was a healthy, plant-based diet.
And that kind of wisdom makes sense today. The American Cancer Society recommends eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer. These foods contain important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and – added bonus – are usually low in calories. As a general rule, foods with the most color – deep green, yellow, red and orange – have the most nutrients.
As for meat and dairy, the society recommends limiting high-fat foods to two or three servings a day. Remember, a single serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards. It seems like we’re programmed to eat huge meals and lots of treats during the holidays.
You can still eat everything you like – just in moderation. For example, limit that holiday ham, but enjoy your grandma’s famous turkey or other white meat. And exercising regularly is key to preventing cancer and will also help offset holiday eating.
Special tip to get you through holiday gatherings: Limit the alcohol – it packs on the calories.
If you’re always on the go during the holidays, there are many healthy snacks you can try. Fill a baggie with dry cereal, dry roasted peanuts, and raisins. Take along boxed low-fat milk and orange juice. A handful of raisins and six oz. of juice provide two servings of fruit – a good start toward that goal of at least five fruits or veggies a day. For a meal on the go, make a dinner wrap using a low-fat tortilla. Fill with low-fat deli meats and cheeses, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, roasted red peppers, black beans, garbanzo beans, and/or leftover grilled chicken. To flavor and hold a vegetarian wrap together, thinly spread low-fat cream cheese or hummus on the tortilla, or add a small amount of low-fat ranch or blue-cheese salad dressing. It’s a delicious and nutritious way to eat on the go instead of pulling through a fast food restaurant.
An ACS survey found that Americans are dangerously unaware of the link between being overweight and cancer risk. We found that while most people know there’s a connection between obesity and heart disease, only 1 in 10 recognize the link to cancer. And being overweight is a risk factor for many kinds of cancer. The challenge is to be smart about food choices – eat healthy foods, watch portion size, especially those foods high in fats, sugar or calories. Our message is moderation, not deprivation.
We’ve added lots of interactive tools to the Web site, to help people control weight and learn healthy habits in nutrition and exercise. You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) to determine whether you are at a healthy weight. There’s a healthy eating quiz, a personal trainer on video, a calorie counter, and great healthy recipes. For more tips to keep your waistline in check, visit the ACS online.
So eat your way to health this season, and happy holidays, from the ACS.