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 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.


Long time no see


It’s been a little over a year since I posted a blog. I just wasn’t really certain what I wanted to blog about. I didn’t want to be set on blogging about just nutrition. Yes nutrition is a big part of my life. I try to eat healthy and instill healthy eating into my kids, even if they are 3 and 1.
I have had some people ask me how I get my son, Tyler, to eat healthy. First, I should start by saying that Tyler will eat a whole red or orange pepper like you would eat an apple. People are amazed that a 3 year old would do that. This past summer we went to the farmers market in our city. Tyler saw a green pepper with some red on it and wanted it. So we bought it for him. It was a huge pepper. He started eating it on the way back to the car. As we were walking people kept saying look at that boy eating that pepper. It’s not everyday you see a 3 year old eating a pepper like and apple. To me its normal.
Tyler will ask me for frozen vegetables to eat all the time. Why he likes them frozen instead of cooked is beyond me. When Tyler was a baby I tried not to give him any sweets until his first birthday. I think I was pretty successful in doing so. I didn’t do anything really special when he was a baby, food wise. I did the normal cereal then vegetables, fruit and then meats. I would give him vegatables and fruit for lunch and dinner along with whatever we were eating. He would sometimes get fruit as a snack as well. One of the things to eating healthy is not having junk food or sweets in your house. We rarely have sweet and junk food at our house. I don’t want you to think that we never eat sweets or junk food, we do, just not every day. Moderation is key. Now that Tyler is three, almost 4, he still asks for fruits and vegetables for a snack, oh and cheese. He has rarely if ever asked me for candy or junk food. I hope that my daughter, Ariana, will have the same eating habits as him.


Billy Blanks

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite activities to do is going to the gym. It is a great stress reliever and I enjoy it. I have been working out since I was 15. I would come home from school and do my Tae Bo tape. I can still hear Billy Blanks saying come on 8 more! Now, while I would go exercise my friends would go get fast food. I didn’t eat the healthiest in high school, but what high school student does? I continued to workout through college til now. I loved the rec center at Kent State. It had the Tredmills and ellipticals separate from the weights and it was big and open. I was determined not to gain the dreaded freshman 15, which I didn’t. College was when I started to watch more of what I ate and started eating better. I’m sure my nutrition classes helped too. I worked out all throughout my pregnancies up until the day I delivered. Now I go to the gym three days a week. I usually lift weights and do the elliptical. I would like to go more, so maybe I will work on that. There have been sometimes when I didn’t want to go workout, but I tell myself if after five minutes I still don’t want to be there then I’ll leave. Usually when I do that I end up staying for my whole workout. Exercising just makes me feel better. If I haven’t exercised in awhile I just am not in a good mood, ask my husband if you don’t believe me!
Many people will come up with any excuse not to exercise. “I’m too tired.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t like to workout.” You don’t have to go to the gym to workout. Even if you walk, that counts as exercise. Exercising gives you more energy. So if you are tired try going for a little walk. No time? Make time! Nothing bad can come from exercising, except for maybe some sore muscles. I’ve had my fair share of torn tendons and sore muscles. I was in physical therapy for almost a year for torn tendons in my hips, butt and knee. It was from overuse and the fact that I didn’t stretch after working out. Needless to say I stretch now and haven’t had any problems since.
Go out and do something active today!

Beef and barley soup


I’m always looking for new recipes to try because I don’t like eating the same thing all the time. I have found alot of good recipes on Pinterest. Last night for dinner I made beef and barley soup. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Its a nice hearty soup. I usually don’t make many recipes from Martha Stewart magazine because many of the ingredients are expensive or the recipes are time consuming. With a 2 year old and an 11 week old I need meals that are either quick, simple or can cook in a crockpot or something for a few hours.

Beef and Barley Soup

2T olive oil (I just used olive oil cooking spray, works just as well)
1 pound London broil, cut in cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2T minced garlic (4 cloves)
2T tomato paste
3/4 cup dry red wine ( I didn’t use this either, I just used beef broth)
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
3/4 cup hulled or pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup parsley chopped
Horseradish for garnish ( I omitted this)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over med-high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove beef.
Reduce heat to medium. Add some more oil if needed. Cook onion, carrots, and mushrooms until golden, 12-15 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until caramelized, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add wine. Return to heat and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Return beef to pot and add stock and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.
Add barley and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook until beef and barley are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in parsley. Divide soup in 6 bowls and garnish with horseradish.

Serves 6
292 calories
2g sat. fat
6g unsaturated fat
24g protein
6g fiber

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.


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.

Which is best?

This topic has been on my mind for quite sometime now, every since I had children and decided to breastfeed. Which is best breastfeeding or formula? The great debate among many people. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Some of the advantages to breastfeeding are it is bacteriologically safe, always fresh, contains antibodies and immune cells for baby, it is always the right temperature, cost-effective, convenient, baby is less likely to be over-fed and it provides close mother-child contact just to name a few. Breastfeeding can help to lower the risk of the mother getting breast cancer and also helps the mother get back to her pre-pregancy weight sooner. Some disadvantages to breastfeeding are not always publicly accepted and the mother always has to be available to feed the baby unless she pumps a bottle before hand. Now on to formula advantages: anyone can feed the baby and  it is easier to go out. Some the disadvantages are cost, you need to warm the bottles, you need to have all the bottles and formula with you all the time, baby may not tolerate formula as well and you need to make sure everything is measured right so baby gets the right nutrients.

I knew that I was going to breastfeed even before I was pregnant. I just knew that it was the best thing for me and the baby. When I was pregnant no one told me which is better or even the advantages and disadvantages. Had I not taken nutrition classes I probably wouldn’t have known all the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby. All through my pregnancies and hospital stays I did not have any one person talk with me about breastfeeding. I had nurses and doctors ask if I was going to and when I said “yes” they just left it at that. But for some reason when I did say “yes” I still received formula and coupons for formula in the mail and at the hospital. Now I’m sure the formula companies provide those for free but I’m never going to use them. How is that promoting breastfeeding when hospitals and doctor offices are providing all these free cans of formula and coupons for formula? I don’t understand the reasoning behind it. So now I have 3 cans of formula that will never be used. If none of my new mothers or pregnant moms need it I’m just going to donate it to the food bank.

I do understand that there are some circumstances where a mother cannot breastfeed. I am not trying to tell anyone which is best. It is a personal decision. Breastfeeding is not easy. I just about gave up on it within the first couple of weeks with my first child. I thought that breastfeeding would be a breeze, but boy was I wrong. I had no clue what I was doing and he didn’t know what he was doing either. Nobody tells you about the engorgement, sore nipples or the leaky boobs. Breastfeeding isn’t pretty at times. But I am glad that I stuck with it. It helped to create a tight bond with my son and now my daughter. Once I got the hang of it, it was a breeze. Yeah the middle of the night feedings suck but well worth it. No matter what a mother decides to do, she is a mother and that bond with her child will last forever!