Making Wise Food Choices When Going Through Cancer

Immune system

Immune system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Today I am featuring a guest post by David he is a writer and awareness advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and has been studying and blogging about nutrition and fitness for cancer patients.  You can find his blog and bio at http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/david/. I hope you enjoy his article, because I sure did!

Food safety is important for everyone, not just for those going through cancer. Viruses, parasites and bacteria can contaminate the food you eat if you don’t take adequate precautions to keep yourself safe. Since cancer patients often undergo chemotherapy, medication or radiation to help them fight their disease, the result can be a weakened immune system.

A Properly Functioning Immune System is Necessary for Cancer Patients

Over the course of your disease, cancer can weaken the immune system. When you add the potential for further weakness from possible treatments, food safety and wise food choices becomes especially important. A properly functioning immune system is necessary to keep infection and foreign pathogens out of the body, but if cancer treatments have weakened your immune system, that makes you more susceptible to infection and foodborne illnesses.

Proper nutrition during cancer treatments results in many benefits. It can improve your quality of life, increase your energy levels and give you a better outlook. It can increase your stamina, improve how you look and make you feel better. When you feel better, you’re more likely to take better care of yourself, and that includes getting enough sleep and exercise. With proper nutrition, your body will be better equipped to fight against the cancer.

Making Wise Food Choices

Some foods are healthier and less risky than others. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, foods most likely to contain harmful viruses and bacteria fall into the following two categories.

1. Unpasteurized milk (raw milk), soft cheeses made from raw milk, uncooked or undercooked eggs, and deli-type salads prepared without preservatives at your local grocery store can all cause problems.

2. Uncooked, fresh fruits and vegetables can also be problematic.

Since cancer therapies and mesothelioma treatment side effects can place an extra burden on your immune system, the USDA recommends you always drink pasteurized milk in order to avoid potential food contaminants. In addition, you should use pasteurized egg products when preparing recipes that call for raw eggs and avoid eating raw cookie dough. Don’t make eggnog at home with raw eggs and avoid homemade Caesar-type salad dressings.

Unsafe cheeses are varieties made from raw milk such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican varieties such as Queso fresco. Always thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables, including the salad mixes that come in factory-sealed bags. The USDA also advises cancer patients not to eat raw sprouts. They should always be cooked.

While making wise food choices can’t guarantee you will never become ill, taking adequate precautions to help keep yourself safe will give you a fighting chance to win against the odds.

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Resolution

The New Year is upon us. How many people made their resolution to lose weight and eat better? I think that is on a list of most people. How many people really stick to them? I love going to the gym and it is packed the first week of January with all those people and their new year resolutions. Then a few weeks later and the gym is back to normal with all the regulars. Ahhh, those people who make resolutions and don’t keep them. Yes it’s hard to make lifestyle changes and more power to those that do it! Most people who are looking to lose weight want a quick fix or a pill to take. Which brings me to this article I read:
On Saturday I was at my hair dresser and while I was under the dryer I was reading a magazine, I think it was OK! Magazine. I was reading an article on two former playboy playmates Holly and Kendra and how they lost weight. Well Holly used NV,reduced portion sizes and chose better food options. She would eat fast food and large portions and now she eats fish/chicken, salad, fruit. Then there is Kendra who uses Ab cuts, hired a personal trainer to work out everyday, and ate healthier. They both claimed these “diet pills” helped them lose their weight. Now if you looked at their diet before and after wouldn’t you think that just changing eating habits alone would promote weight loss? Or hiring a personal trainer and exercising would lead to weight loss, not diet pills? If a person just changes the way they eat and exercise, then yes you will lose weight. Of course both of these ladies are spoke-people for the products. Now if I was famous and had millions of dollars then I would for sure have a personal trainer and a chef. Not everyone can have that. People need to realize that there is no little pill you can take to lose weight. It takes time, determination and will power. It takes 3500 calories to equal 1 pound. If you cut 500 calories from you diet you should lose 1/2-1 pound a week. That is a healthy way to lose weight. Just don’t go below 1200 calories per day. Starving yourself isn’t the answer to weight loss either. There are so many diets and diet pills and programs out there. So if you are looking to lose weight choose wisely. Go talk to a dietitian!!!

The Holidays

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Also the time of year where people eat and eat and eat and gain some extra pounds. I love Christmas. I like spending time with my family, even though it is total chaos with 11 nieces and nephews plus my two. But it’s good for everyone to be together! I can’t wait to watch Tyler open his presents and probably everyone else’s for that matter. I just hope he waits until mommy and daddy are up. I wasn’t really sure what to buy Ariana since she is 3 1/2 months old. I didn’t buy her much because she won’t remember and if she does need anything along the way we will just buy it. I bought her a purple scout, it plays music and songs. Tyler has a green one and he sleeps with it every night, so I’m hoping she will like it as much as he does. I usually make cut-out cookies for Christmas. This year I hope Tyler can help me decorate them.

Cookies are one of the foods I’m sure most people will consume during the holidays. Are they healthy? No! But if you don’t overindulge then it’s not as bad. So what are some of the worst foods during the holidays? Eggnog is, with all the egg yolk, heavy cream, sugar and alcohol. Eggnog has 258 calories and 8.2 g of fat. There really isn’t anything good in eggnog. Alcohol will also be consumed in mass quantities, especially on New Years eve. Most beers have anywhere from 100-150 calories, depending if it’s a light beer or not. Four ounce of wine can have 75-140 calories, depending of the wine. The most popular beverage for New Years maybe champagne which has around 90 calories in a glass.
Other items are:
-Pecan pie (1/8 of piece), 507 kcal, 27 g fat
-Sugar cookies, 130 kcal, 6 g fat
-Cranberry sauce, 110 kcal, 0 g fat
-Swedish meatbals (6), 250kcal, 18 g fat
-Red velvet cake, 270 kcal, 13 g fat
-Shrimp cocktail (12), 80 kcal, 1g fat
These are just a few popular foods during the holidays. So choose wisely!

Grocery shopping

Food for Life distributes food on an internati...

Image via Wikipedia

Who likes to grocery shop? I don’t. Every Sunday my husband and I go grocery shopping in the morning. It is something I loathe but it has to be done. I’m just glad my husband, Eric, is there to endure it with me. I always try to have a list and make a menu for the week. Planning meals for the week is a chore in and of itself. I try to make things that I know my son, Tyler, will eat. Toddlers can be very picky eaters. I also try to bring some coupons with us. The thing with coupons is they never have any for meat, fruit, milk, and vegetables. Even if you do have a coupon most often then not you have to buy more than one just to get 25-50 cents off. I have found some good coupons though. I am no coupon addict.
When you go grocery shopping you mostly want to stick to the perimeter of the store. That’s where all the fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy products are. When we shop we rarely buy things like pop, chips, and sweets. If it’s not in the house then you won’t eat it! I always stock up on frozen vegetables. They are just as good as fresh and they keep longer. If you have to buy canned fruits and vegetables make sure they are low in sodium and the fruit are in fruit juice not syrup.
Now I’m not saying to just buy all your groceries from the perimeter of the store. I do buy crackers, bread, and rice etc. My son likes to eat goldfish, so I buy him the whole grain ones, which have some fiber in them.
The things we buy mostly are fruit, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, milk, whole wheat pasta, and ground turkey. We wouldn’t have to grocery shop if fruit and vegetables lasted long than a few days. What do you think of grocery shopping? Love it? Hate it?

Portion control

Shut yo face!

Portion sizes over the years have gotten bigger and bigger. As a result so has the waistline of many American’s. Here’ a link to a website showing how portions have changed from 20 years ago.

A coke used to be an 8oz bottle and now they come in 20 oz bottles. A bagel was 3 inches in diameter and now they are 5-6 inches in diameter and 200 or more calories. Not only has portion sizes increased but so has our plates, cups and bowls. The average size of our plates today are 12-13 inches in diameter, compared to 9 inches in the 1960’s. I just measured our plates and they are 11 inches in diameter. With added portion sizes and bigger plates comes more food and more overeating. Did all these changes help to contribute to the obesity epidemic? I think so…but that’s another topic for another day.

So how do you know what is considered a portion size?

3 oz of meat (chicken, beef) is the size of a deck of cards
3oz of fish is the size of a checkbook
2 tablespoons of peanut butter is the size of a ping pong ball
1 cup of fruit/ vegetable and a medium size piece of fruit is the size of your fist
1 cup of salad is the size of a baseball
1 oz of cheese is the size of 3 dice
1 oz of nuts is the size of a handful (not overflowing)
1 pancake is the size of a cd
1/3-1/2cup pasta or rice is the size of an ice cream scoop
1 baked potato is the size of a computer mouse

These are just some examples. Here a link with a printable handout from the American Heart Association.

So the next time you are at a restaurant you can compare the portion sizes of your meal to what a real portion should be. When you do eat out you can always split a meal with someone or ask for a to go bag as soon as you get your meal and put half of your meal in the bag.

Thanksgiving

Image via Wikipedia

Thanksgiving is in two weeks. I can’t believe it! Thanksgiving is a time for family, giving thanks to the people in our lives and eating. For most people it will be eating too much! Turkey will be the main food consumed along with sweet potatoes, dressing, cranberries and pumpkin pie! Our Thanksgiving consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, corn, cranberries, sweet potato casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie and Hershey chocolate pie. My family has two Thanksgivings, one on my side and one on my husband’s side, on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It is nice to have them spaced apart so we aren’t eating two huge meals in one day, which many families do end up doing. Football is another Thanksgiving tradition. I personally don’t care for NFL football, but others do and will watch the game after eating. Some people may fall asleep while watching the game. As many people know turkey contains tryptophan which is an amino acid needed for growth and nitrogen balance. The body uses it make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin helps to promote healthy sleep and stable mood. So that is why many people fall asleep after eating large quantities of turkey.

Some helpful tips for not overeating on Thanksgiving :
1. Eat breakfast, don’t starve yourself all day so you can overeat at meal time.
2. Drink plenty of water. Drink a glass before your meal and drink in between bites.
3. Only have one serving of each, DON’T go back for seconds.
4. Fill your plate with half fruits and vegetables, 1/3 meat and 1/3 grain.
5. If you have dessert have a small serving, skip the whip cream on the pumpkin pie.
6. Go for a walk after your meal or before to help burn some calories! ( it may also help you from falling asleep after eating turkey!)

These are just some tips to help overeating. They are good for most meals also. Don’t think that just because it is a holiday you need to stuff yourself full. Moderation and portion control is the key! Maybe my next post should be on portion control!

Calcium

A glass of milk

Image via Wikipedia

Calcium plays a very important role in our bodies. It is a mineral we need each day. Calcium makes up about 99% in our bones and teeth and the other 1% is found in the blood and soft tissue. Adequate calcium intake is essential for maintaining healthy bones. If calcium intake is inadequate the body will demineralize our bones to maintain normal blood calcium levels. When calcium levels are inadequate it is considered a deficiency. Low blood calcium levels usually implies abnormal parathyroid function and is rarely due to low dietary intake. Chronic kidney disease, vitamin D deficiency, and low magnesium levels, that occur mainly due to alcoholism, can cause low calcium levels in the blood. Vitamin D is needed for optimal calcium absorption. That is why most calcium supplements contain vitamin D. The recommended amount of calcium for children ages 1-3 are 500mg/d, ages 4-8  800mg/d, ages 9-18 1300mg/d, for adults up to age 50 you need 1000mg/d, 51 and older need 1200mg/d, during pregnancy women need 1300mg/d if under 18 and if they are older than 18 they need 1000mg/d.
There are many good sources of calcium. It is best to obtain as much calcium from foods since calcium in foods is accompanied by other nutrients. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheeses, yogurt, tofu, spinach, rhubarb, white beans, kale, pinto beans red beans and broccoli.
 My family goes through 3 gallons of milk a week. I personally am not a big milk drinker. I only have about a glass of milk a day with my dinner. I do take a calcium supplement because I know that I don’t get enough calcium through the foods I eat. I will eat yogurt but I can get tired of eating it. Now my son and husband will drink milk plain with no food or anything. I can’t do that. I don’t care for the taste of it. There is nothing wrong with taking a supplement. If you do take calcium supplements make sure to take it with food and not to take it with a multivitamin. The reason is that food  helps calcium get absorbed better in your body. The iron in a multivitamin will prevent calcium from being absorbed properly. So just try to remember those tips if you take a supplement. Not everyone needs a supplement.

Fiber

Wheat.

Image via Wikipedia

 

My husband will sometime complain about why we always have to have whole wheat bread and pasta etc. I don’t think he knows the importance of a high fiber diet. He has gotten used to pretty much everything whole wheat in our house though. What fiber does is add bulk and speed the passage of food through the intestine. It helps to prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. The fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans and oatmeal help to lowe cholesterol. Most adults need 30-35 grams of fiber per day. How do you know if a product is high in fiber? If you look on the food label where it says fiber and it says 5 grams or more that is considered high fiber, if it is 3-4 then it is a good source of fiber. When buying whole wheat products make sure to look at the ingredients to make sure whole wheat is number one. Many bread say wheat bread but if you look at the food label under ingredients enriched flour is the main ingredient and therefore is not high in fiber. If you are not used to wheat products it may take some getting used to.

Here is a good high fiber recipe that I got off of Giant Eagle noodle package. I used whole wheat noodles.

1 (12oz) package wide noodles

1/2 lb sliced much mushrooms

1 1/2-2 cups broccoli florets

1 cup sliced zucchini

1/2 cup red bell pepper, Julienne

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 T butter (I didn’t use butter, only cooking spray)

1lb of turkey sausage

8-10 cherry tomatoes (I omitted)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Cook noodles. Meanwhile in a large skillet saute vegetables, oregano and garlic powder for 4-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add sausage and cover. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and half of cheese. Add noodles to sausage mixture and mix. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

 

Where’s the fruit and veggies?

Local Fruit and Vegetables

I enjoy eating out and never really thought about the kids menu until I had my own. Once Tyler, my son, was old enough to eat solids I found it hard to find good food for him to eat when we went out to eat. I would usually bring some fruit and vegetables with me when we would go out to eat because many restaurants either have one or the other. It is very rare to find restaurants with both fruits and vegetables as an option. When we were on vacation in Myrtle Beach we went to a bar and grill type of restaurant and they had no fruit, vegetables or even milk. Now how can you not have milk? I don’t even think they had a kid’s menu come to think of it. I was totally appalled. Most of the food options were not very healthy either. I wish I could remember the name of the place, it was in Surfside beach. But there are some restaurants that we have been to that have offered both fruits and vegetables. Bob Evan’s has a good assortment of vegetables and fruit! They even have other offering besides the standard grilled cheese, mac n’ cheese, hot dog, chicken fingers that all restaurants have. They have grilled chicken, shrimp, and a fruit and yogurt plate, which Tyler likes. Another good place is Sunny Street Cafe, I think this is mainly local, but they have a good selection of meals for kids. Many restaurants like Applebee’s,O’ Charley’s, Olive Garden, Cheeseburger in Paradise only have vegetables as an option, if that. Olive Garden only had a salad. Even if you do get vegetable from a place they put so much butter and other stuff to distort the taste that it makes the nutritional value go down. I usually try to tell them just to steam it and not put anything on it. We went to Max and Erma’s one time and I ordered broccoli for Tyler and he wouldn’t eat it because they put so much butte on it. He isn’t used to eating broccoli that way. My family and I maybe eat out once a week. It is just so hard sometimes to find good and healthy things for my child to eat when we go out. I usually bring some fruit or a vegetable with me when we go out. It helps to hold him over until our food comes also.

The above restaurants are just a few of the places we have been and what I have observed eating there. I just wish that most restaurants would offer more of a selection of fruit and vegetables, let alone more of a meal option. Why do places have to have the same old same old for kids? Do they think that is all kids want to eat? Well if they don’t have other options, then yes I guess that is what they will have to eat.

Pumpkins

This past weekend my family and I went to the Circleville Pumpkin show. There were huge pumpkins weighing in over 1400 pounds. There were pumpkins everywhere. They had so much pumpkin food from pumpkin donuts, pie, cheesecake to pumpkin waffles. You name it and they could probably make it with pumpkin. We didn’t sample much of the food though. The only thing we did try was a pumpkin donut. It was pretty good, you couldn’t really taste the pumpkin in it. The pumpkin helps to keep it moist. Now as all of these people at the show are eating pumpkin I doubt they know the health benefits of pumpkin. The orange color of pumpkins should be a dead give away that pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene. Beta-carotene can help offer protection against some degenerative aging diseases. In 1 cup of boiled pumpkin and drained there are 49 calories, 2 grams of protein and zero fat. There are tons of recipes were pumpkin can be added. One of my favorites is pumpkin bread! So go ahead and try a pumpkin recipe.