WASHINGTON, DC — With healthy eating playing a key role in cancer-protection, experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have developed a checklist to help you and your family start the Fall and back-to-school season with a cancer-protective kitchen.
Re-stocking and rearranging cabinets and refrigerators can help both adults and kids make a habit of choosing healthy foods and avoiding processed meats and foods with too much added sugar or fat. Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meat link to increased risk of colorectal cancer. And overweight and obesity links to increased risk of 11 cancers, including post-menopausal breast, esophageal and ovarian.
“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 Director of Nutrition Programs Alice Bender, MS, RDN. “For a cancer-protective and healthy lifestyle, eating more plant foods such as beans, vegetables and fruits, along with less processed foods with lots of sugar and fat can help keep you at a healthy weight, and set up healthier habits for your kids.”
AICR research shows that aside from not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the single biggest lifestyle step to protect against cancer.
One thing that 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.
4. Replace processed lunch meats with healthy proteins: Stock up on cheese sticks, peanut butter hummus, fresh sliced meats and hard boiled eggs.5. 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.
6. Make or buy creative healthy beverages and ditch the sugary drinks: Sugary beverages contribute to obesity, a cause of many cancers. Replace sodas and other sweet drinks with a couple 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.7. 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.