WASHINGTON, DC —Healthy eating plays a key role in cancer-protection starting early in life, so experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have developed a cancer protective checklist to help you and your family start the back-to-school season with a cancer-protective kitchen.
AICR research shows that aside from not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the single biggest lifestyle step to protect against cancer. Helping children develop habits that support a healthy weight is important for establishing lifelong healthful habits.
“Before you get busy with fall schedules and school programs, setting up your kitchen to help you simplify healthy eating and meal prep is key,” says AICR Senior Director of Nutrition Programs Alice Bender. “For a cancer-protective and healthy lifestyle, eating more plant foods such as beans, vegetables and fruits, along with less of those processed foods that have lots of sugar and added fat set up healthier habits for your kids.”
Re-stocking and rearranging cabinets and refrigerators can help you make a habit of choosing healthy foods and avoiding processed meats and other highly processed foods. Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meat link to increased risk of colorectal cancer, and there is strong scientific evidence that a diet with highly processed foods leads to higher risk for having overweight and obesity. Too much body fat is a cause at least 12 types of cancer.
“One thing that you can do is set up your kitchen makeover as a family project,” advises Bender. “Involve the whole family, such as asking your kids to go shopping with you or experiment with new healthy recipes.” Here are 7 steps for your kitchen makeover:
- Get rid of foods high in added sugar and fat: Highly processed foods – like chips, packaged baked goods and energy bars – pack a lot of calories per bite and may not satisfy hunger, making it easy to overeat.
- Fill your freezer with easy-prep veggies and fruit: Frozen greens, peas, corn and other veggies are simple to steam for a quick side at dinner. Have frozen fruit chunks ready to throw in blender with yogurt for breakfast or smoothie snack.
- Swap out refined “white” grains with whole grains: Keep whole grain wraps, pitas and sliced bread in the freezer. You can use them to make a sandwich or a pita pizza. Stock up on pre-cooked frozen brown rice – super convenient as a base for veggie stir-fry or stews.
- Replace processed lunch meats with healthy proteins: Stock up on cheese sticks, peanut butter, hummus, fresh sliced meats and hard boiled eggs.
- Stock up on favorite fruits and vegetables: Cut up those veggies and fruits, clear off your top fridge shelf and put them front and center. Place your favorite dip there too, so when you and your kids open the fridge door, you can easily grab a healthy snack.
- Make or buy creative healthy beverages and ditch sugary drinks: Sugary beverages contribute to obesity, a cause of many cancers. Replace sodas and other sweet drinks with a couple of pitchers or bottles of water – plain and sparkling, along with unsweetened teas, or watered-down juices. Make flavored ice cubes with juice, tea or chopped fruit.
- Use see-through containers for healthy ingredients: Next to the plain yogurt, keep leftover fruit chunks, sunflower seeds, nuts and vegetables in clear containers that you can easily grab.