Tag Archive | healthy eating

Follow The Rainbow

Hey, it has been a while since I have posted about cancer prevention and healthy living, so here goes…….

When eating for disease prevention, the best health tip that you can follow is to “follow the rainbow”, meaning that you should include as many colorful foods in your diet as possible.  No, I am not telling you to eat bag of Skittles a day, I am referring to nature’s treats, fruits and vegetables!

Nothing looks more appealing than a plateful of richly colored food.  The beautiful colors found in fruits and vegetables are the result of chemicals called anti-oxidants.  While there are tiny amounts of anti-oxidants found in meats and dairy (due to the fact that animals eat plants), by far the vast majority of anti-oxidants are found in plant based foods.  There are many classes of anti-oxidants, such as beta-carotene, which gives squash its yellow color; lypocene, which gives tomatoes their red color; and crytoxanthins, which lend oranges their orange color.  It is not important that you know all these fancy words, but it is important for you to know that you need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in order to get the health benefits from an array of anti-oxidants.

So why are anti-oxidants important to good health?  Good question!  Throughout our lifetime, our bodies produce a nasty substance called free radicals.  Free radicals are the result of normal metabolism and energy production in the body, and are formed when we exercise.  They are also produced by exposure to the sun’s rays, pollution from the environment, and poor diet, among other things.  These free radicals wreak havoc on the body, causing our tissues to become stiff and rigid.  Eventually, these free radicals will lead to degenerative diseases in the body, such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.   The good news is, we can help to protect our bodies from the damage of free radicals by building a shield around them so that they are unable to damage the cells in our body.  This protective shield is formed by anti-oxidants.

Our bodies can manufacture some types of antioxidants, but not others, and our natural antioxidant production tends to decline with age.  Fortunately for us, plants are able to produce these anti-oxidant shields which protect their cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, and by eating plants, we get the same protection.  It is impossible to stop our bodies from accumulating free radicals, after all, they are a bi-product of living and breathing.  In addition, pollutants and carcinogens are all around us: in our air, food, water and sunlight. However, we don’t have to do it alone.  By eating more fruits and vegetables we are able to borrow their anti-oxidant super powers, and thereby reduce the aging and disease effects that free radicals cause in our bodies.

So, some of you are thinking, “I am not a big fan of fruits and veggies, so I will just take an anti-oxidant supplement instead.”  Sorry, think again.  When you eat whole foods, you get more than the anti-oxidents. You also get essential vitamins, minerals, and energy in the form of protein, fat and carbohydrates.   Although you can get some types of nutrients through supplements, it is better to get them through food. The nutrients and other components in whole foods are more balanced, more biologically active, and are usually better absorbed by the body, according to a 2009 article by David R. Jacobs, Jr. published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”  While taking a supplement can do no harm, it is wise not to depend on them as your main source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.  See how many colors you can incorporate into your meals today!

5 Weeks To Healthier Eating Challenge. Week 1: Kale

Here’s the challenge: 5 weeks, 5 super-foods, and 5 ways to prepare them! We all want to eat healthier, right?   The secret to healthier eating is NOT to obsess about all the foods you CAN’T eat, but rather focus on adding new, health promoting foods to your existing diet. For the next 5 weeks, I will be presenting one food a week for you to try….or to try in a new way.   All you have to do is try just one of the five recipes presented each week and decide….is this a food I can live with?

Week 1: Hail To The Kale!

Kale recipe

I recently shared a simple kale recipe on Facebook, and it practically went viral! (Well, mini-viral at least.)   So I can only conclude that there are people out there who are as enamoured with kale as I am. Who would have thunk it?

In our book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It, my esteemed co-author Susan, talks about 9 of the health promoting benefits of this fabulous super-food (pg. 193). I would now like to share with you 5 of these benefits. (Just because I know you have a short attention span, and 5 is a nice, easy number to work with.) So here goes:

  1. Anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to your health, the inflammatory response in the body is the root of all evil! Inflammation is the underlying cause of arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and a number of auto-immune diseases. Kale is an incredibly effective ANTI-inflammatory food, which may prevent and in some cases, even reverse the inflammatory response in the body.
  2. Iron content. It is a common misconception that most vegetarians are anemic. In fact, kale is a great source of iron and per calorie, it has more iron than beef!
  3. Calcium content. Move over milk! Kale contains 90 mg. of calcium per serving. This is more calcium, per calorie, than milk, and as an added benefit this calcium is more easily absorbed by the body than is the calcium from milk.
  4. Low calorie. One cup of fresh kale has just 30 skinny little calories, and less than one milligram of fat. (Plus loads of fiber to keep you feeling full longer.)
  5. Cancer-fighting kick. Here is why I love it!   Kale belongs to the cruciferous family of veggies, along with broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These veggies are extremely high in phytochemicals, sulforaphane and indole 3-carbinol, which are not just fancy words, but have also been proven to protect against cancer.

So there you have it. Five good reasons to eat kale. Now let me share with you 5 of my favorite ways to eat it.

1. Kale chips. A delicious snack that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.

kale chips

1 bunch of kale, washed and stems removed.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (I use “herb infused” olive oil for extra flavor)

Desired seasonings to taste (sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.)

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Make sure kale is COMPLETELY dry. Tear kale into pieces, toss in a bowl with olive oil and seasonings. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

2. Quick kale. Ok, I don’t actually have a name for this recipe, (or a picture, sorry) so I just made that one up in a pinch. This is a quick and easy side dish, which I also use on top of pasta.

1 whole Large Bunch Of Kale, Or 2 Regular Bunches

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2-3 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced

Salt And Pepper, to taste

1/2 Lemon, Optional

Thoroughly rinse the kale in cold water, soaking if necessary to remove grit. Tear the kale into chunks.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and quickly stir it around to avoid burning.

Throw in the kale and toss it around the skillet. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and continue cooking until slightly wilted but still crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. (Or longer if you like.)

Remove the kale to a plate and serve!

Option: Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top.

3. Colorful Kale and Cabbage Stew….try saying that fast 3 times. It is quite the mouthful…and quite the delicious tummy full too! With super foods like kale, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic, this stew is a winner for cancer fighting nutrition. (And a great Fall comfort food)

kale stew2

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups kale, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 medium red potato, cubed skin on, well scrubbed
  • 2 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a medium stock pot, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add cabbage and kale with about 1/2 cup of water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add vegetable broth and carrots and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Then add the sweet potato and red potato, and continue to simmer, covered for about another 20 to 30 minutes. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

4. Kale and Quinoa Salad. As beautiful to look at as it is to eat.

kale salad blog

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice…about 2-3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable broth
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste taste to see if you need it

1 tsp. chia seeds or ground flax seeds for thickening

Salad:

  • 4-6 cups chopped kale leaves (about 4-5 ounces)
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans rinsed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 avocado sliced or cubed (optional but recommended)
  • additional lemon juice and seasonings to taste

Directions

Heat a saucepan that has a lid. Add the rinsed and drained quinoa and the garlic and toast it until almost dry. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing in a small bowl or measuring cup: whisk together the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons broth, chia/flax seeds, chile powders, cumin, and salt. Allow to stand until the chia seeds start to thicken the dressing.

Place the kale in a large serving bowl. Add half of the dressing and massage it into the kale using a wringing motion until the kale is very tender. Two minutes of massaging should do it, but the longer, the better. Add the quinoa, black beans, carrot, and bell pepper, along with the remaining dressing. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, check the seasoning and add more lemon juice, chile powder, cumin, and salt, as needed. Stir in chopped avocado, if desired, or serve with slices of avocado on the side.

5. Kale Chowder

kale chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 heaping tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 heaping tsp dried rosemary
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 cups kale, de-stemmed, finely chopped

Directions

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes and stir. Then add in the carrots, parsley, and rosemary, and cook for five more minutes while stirring.

Add in the vegetable stock and chopped cauliflower. Simmer until the cauliflower is softened.

Place the soup into a blender, but leave some pieces of carrot and cauliflower behind so it will be a bit chunky. Blend the rest of the soup until it’s smooth and then place it back in the pot.

Add in the chopped kale. Simmer for another 10 minutes until the kale is fully cooked.

Kale recipe

 

So there you have it folks, 5 great recipes to choose from to get you back on track with your healthy living plan.

Another thing I really love about kale is that it is so easy to grow from seed. My mother, who is a fabulous gardener, has it growing in abundance. So needless to say, kale is finding its way into many of our meals. If you have more kale than you can digest right now, don’t fret, here is an easy way to “keep” it: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place kale in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, just until it turns a bright green color. Immediately put it in a drainer and run it under cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in containers and freeze.  Of course, you would not make chips with this “blanched” kale, but it works great in other recipes.

If you like these recipes, and you would like to learn more about eating for cancer prevention, please sign up for our Free 4 day Cancer Plan 4 Life Kickstart Program. Bon Appetit!

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Take The Meatless Monday Challenge!

challenge3

Just two short years ago, I figured that having a salad with my shake-n-bake chicken and mashed potatoes, was the epitome of healthy eating!   (By salad, of course I mean iceberg lettuce with chopped tomato, smothered in creamy ranch or Caesar dressing.)   Then something happened that changed my whole outlook on healthy living.  That “something” was stage 3 breast cancer, which boasts a five year survival rate of just over 50%.  That scared the Bejesus out of me!

At first I felt completely helpless with my diagnosis.  This monster was invading my body and there was not a thing I could do about it.  But then I started to do some research, and I soon learned that I could greatly reduce my risk of a cancer reoccurrence through diet and exercise. I felt so empowered by this knowledge!  So I made up my mind:  if I have to change my diet to increase my chances of surviving cancer, I WILL change my diet!  If I have to exercise more, I WILL exercise more! If I have to give up wine ……wait, let’s not get carried away here (wine is considered vegan after all.)

Lately I have been getting a lot of questions from people who are interested in adopting healthier eating habits, but are not sure of where to start.   My advice to you is this: Baby Steps.  If you try to go from a full blown carnivore to plant based eating overnight, you may be setting yourself up for failure.  A great way to get a taste of plant based eating is to go one day per week without meat.  So Susan and I are issuing a challenge to our readers:  Meatless Monday.  All that is required is that you go Meatless for six consecutive Monday’s; just one day per week of REALLY healthy eating.   The challenge starts on Monday, March 4th.  Each Saturday, we will be posting delicious recipes and tips on our blogs.  If you are interested in taking the challenge, please go to our Facebook page , 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips For Surviving It and sign up!  (And while you’re there, be sure to LIKE our page if you haven’t already done so.)

Come on!  Take the challenge…..I dare ya!

Perk # 90: …….And To Adopt Some Good Habits

My son, Donovan, walked into the kitchen one morning and asked, “Mom, why does it smell like someone just mowed the lawn in here?”

“Well, son, that’s my breakfast,”  I replied.

Yes, my friends, I am doing grass; wheatgrass, that is.  In case you are wondering, it tastes every bit as good as it sounds.   However, along with kicking some old bad habits, cancer motivated me to adopt some new, healthy ones.  Juicing wheatgrass is one of them.

I have read a lot of good things about wheatgrass juice.  I am no medical expert, but taking living grass, squeezing the green “blood” from it, and then drinking it, has to be good for you.   The fact that it ranks right up there with broccoli and raw cabbage in taste tests, is further proof to me that it is healthy.   Therefore, while it takes a lot of work just to produce just one ounce of the juice, I plan to continue with this healthy habit.

Tip: Be open to trying new foods  for their health benefits.

Perk # 86: Cancer Re-Defined My Relationship With Food

Fries…..

OR

salad?

If there is one thing I have learned about surviving cancer, it is that I need to be very aware of what I put into my body.  When I first started my cancer-fighting diet in January, I took it to the extreme.   I bought Kriss Carr’s book, “Crazy Sexy Diet”, brushed the cobwebs off my juicer, and decided that I would subsist  on veggie juice alone.  What’s the obsession with chewing anyway?  I reasoned that it was high time I gave my teeth a break.   On the first day of my new diet, I threw every veggie I could find in the juicer, and drank it down as quickly as I could.  That wasn’t so bad…..not until it hit my gut. Let’s just say that I had pains in my stomach akin to the early stages of labour.  It just did not sit well, and eventually, despite my best efforts to keep it down, I puked.   So ended my Crazy not-so-sexy diet.

I recently met a cancer survivor from P.E.I who told me that not only does she grow her own vegetables, but she also raises her own livestock so that she can be sure her food is completely organic.  I briefly considered doing that.  But hey, I am the type of person who picks worms up off the sidewalk with my bare hands and puts them back in the dirt.  I am pretty sure that come slaughter time, I would have bonded with Ole Bessie.  In fact, she would probably be sleeping at the foot of my bed.  No, that would not work for me.

So I have taken the middle road.  I have drastically cut the amount of meat, wheat, sugar and dairy in my diet, and increased the fruits, veggies, beans and lentils.  This is a diet I can live with.  The only issue  arises when I go out to a restaurant, as was the case earlier this week.  Me and my teens, Kaitlyn  and Donovan, decided to eat out, nothing fancy, but a treat all the same.  The menu wasn’t exactly vegetarian-friendly, but they did offer a nice spinach salad which would fit with my healthy diet.  I practiced my order in my mind, “A spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette on the side and a glass of water please.”  Service was slow, and all around me I could see other people with their mounds of nachos, mountains of fries and baskets of wings.  I tutt-tutted in my mind, all the while practicing my order, “A spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette on the side and a glass of water please”, getting hungrier and hungrier as time went by.  Finally, the waitress came to take our order.  “I’ll have a large fish and chips with gravy and a glass of red wine”, I heard a voice say.  OH My God!  That was my voice, I really don’t know where it came from!  Kaitlyn said, “Mom, are you sure you want to do this? You know how finicky your stomach is.”  I gave her my most solemn look and said, “Kaitlyn, I’m willing to risk it.”   My stomach was fine, but I got a bad dose of guilty conscience afterwards.  I may even need to see a priest, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been 27 years since my last confession.”

Tip:  Eat healthy, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a treat from time to time.

Perk # 51: Cancer Motivated Me To Eat Healthier

Well, here we are in the middle of January, the time to make or break those New Year’s resolutions.  I am happy to report that I am making EXCELLENT progress with my resolution to live a healthier lifestyle.  I am a complete pillar of willpower! Well, I actually only started today because I just got back from my Florida vacation, but all the same, it is nearly 9:00 and I have not consumed one piece of junk food.

Before getting cancer, I wasn’t really motivated to eat healthy.  I ate “healthy-ish” but indulged in junky foods and beverages whenever I felt like it.  Most people eat a healthy diet in order to control their weight, but the truth is, I am just not prone to weight gain.  Like my Aunt Marlene, I can pretty much eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and still wear the same size jeans I did in grade 7.  Hey, don’t hate me because I am thin!  However, now that I am in cancer fighting mode, I realize that I will have to trade in my diet cokes for green teas, and my cheesy Doritos for carrot sticks.

In keeping with my resolution, I started the day with a trip to the supermarket to stock up on nutritious foods.  I am obviously not the only person going in to 2012 with a promise to eat healthier.  I snickered to myself at my fellow shoppers pushing carts laden with fruits and veggies, while  hungrily eyeing bins of marked down Christmas goodies.  I noticed one  woman greedily fondling a half price gingerbread house, then throwing it back in the bin and making a hasty retreat with her cart full of green beans and broccoli.  I felt quite proud of myself as I checked in my groceries: sweet potatoes, zucchini, celery, tofu, and even a bag of lentils.  I do have a question, though: what the heck are lentils anyway and what am I supposed to do with them?

Tip:  You are what you eat!  Start your day with a healthy fruit smoothie.  Just blend one cup of frozen mixed berries, a half a cup of  low fat yogurt, one tablespoon of ground flax seed, and half a cup of cranberry juice (or other fruit juice).  Cheers!