March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, which acts as a reminder that each bite counts. Making just small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time. In honor of National Nutrition Month, our registered dietitians have been discussing the importance of diet and nutrition for cancer prevention.
Of the more than 572,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year, one-third can be attributed to diet, physical activity habits, and overweight and obesity*. Behaviors such as maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active throughout life, and consuming a healthy diet can substantially reduce one’s lifetime risk of developing cancer.
- Start with a plan for lifelong health. Focus on the big picture—achieving overall good health—not just short-term weight loss.
- Set healthy, realistic goals. You are more likely to succeed in reaching goals when you make one or two specific, small changes at a time. Track your progress by keeping a food and activity log.
- Practice mindful eating. When eating, try to be aware and in the moment. Don’t multi-task or eat on the go—sit down and focus your attention on eating. Step away from screens (TV, computer, phone) to limit distractions. Slow down and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signals—it takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize your stomach is full.
- Don’t skip meals! Eating regularly throughout the day prevents dips in energy, keeps you alert and focused, and helps prevent overeating at later meals. Try to eat every 3-4 hours.
- Include plenty of vegetables and fruit, moderate amounts of whole grains, and plant protein sources like nuts, beans, lentils, and tofu, along with modest portions of fish, poultry, lean meats, and non-fat or low-fat dairy foods
- Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Think of including a variety fruits and vegetables at every meal!
- Follow My Plate guidelines for building meals. Be sure to pay attention to portion sizes!
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of the two).
- Moderate Intensity Activities: walking, leisurely biking, yoga
- Vigorous Intensity Activities: jogging , running, spinning
- Find activities you enjoy! You are more likely to achieve physical activity goals if you look forward to exercising.
- Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, watching TV, surfing the internet, or other forms of screen-based entertainment.
* Kushi LH et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. CA Cancer J Clin 2012; 62:30–67.