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Healthy Eating

Having an overall healthy eating pattern versus focusing on one or two food groups is the best way to reduce your cancer risk. The recommendations below are a guide to help you make the best choices.

An example of a healthy eating pattern plate:

Choose a Variety of Vegetables and Fruit

Aim for 3-5 servings vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit per day. Build a colorful plate, vegetables and fruits are nutrient packed. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals food components that reduce cancer risk.

Vegetable or Fruit Type Serving Size
Leafy, raw vegetables (spinach, lettuce) 1 cup
Non-leafy, raw chopped vegetables (carrots, broccoli) 1/2 cup
Cooked or canned vegetables 1/2 cup
Fresh vegetable juice 3/4 cup
Whole, raw fruit (banana, apple, pear, orange) 1 small to medium or 1/2 of a large fruit
Raw berries or cut up fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peaches) 1/2 cup
Canned, cooked or frozen (baked apples, frozen berries, canned pineapple) 1/2 cup
Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots) 1/4 cup or 4 Tbsp
100% fruit juice 3/4 cup

Choose Whole Grains

Flour and whole wheat grains

Whole grains include all of the parts of the original kernel. Whole grains have fiber and nutrients. Refined (or processed) grains do not. Whole grains are linked to a lower colorectal cancer risk.

In addition, whole grains are linked with a lower risk of being overweight or obese, which also contributes to a lowered cancer risk.

  • Switch to whole wheat or whole grain breakfast cereals
  • Purchase whole grain breads, bagels, and crackers
  • Try new grains in place of white rice and pasta, like quinoa, bulgur, brown rice or barley.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour for at least half of the plain flour when making pancakes, muffins, pizza crust, etc.
  • Change wheat pasta to chickpea or other beans pasta

Avoid Red and Processed Meats

Red and processed meats are linked to higher risk of colon cancer. Red meat includes beef, lamb and pork. Processed meat is any meat that has been smoked, cured or salted, or has added preservatives like bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs.

Infographic sample of red meats and processed meats

Choose Plant and Lean Proteins

Choose plant proteins as often as possible:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa
  • Soy foods
  • Peanuts

Use peanut, almond and cashew butters on your toast.

Choose lean proteins such as:

  • Fish, shellfish and other seafood
  • Poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Cheese, yogurt and eggs

Lean meat and plant based proteins such as chicken, fish, beans

Limit Added Sugars

Watch your sweets. The goal is to limit added sugar consumption to less than 6 teaspoons/day (24 grams/day). Added sugars are often used in sugar-sweetened drinks and energy-dense foods. Try the natural sweetness of whole fruits and look for the hidden sugars in packaged foods.

Naturally occurring sugars in whole fruit do not count as added sugars.

Graphic showing sample foods that contain added sugars versus sample foods that contain natural sugars

Avoid Alcohol

Chart showing the different sizes of drinks in ounces
Source: CDC 

Consuming alcohol is linked to 7 different types of cancer (oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, colorectal and liver). People who do choose to drink alcohol should limit their consumption to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.

In summary, a healthy eating pattern includes choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant and lean proteins, avoiding red and processed meats, limiting added sugars and making informed choices about alcohol.

Your journey towards a healthier you starts with a plate full of flavor and color.

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