Something Different
Week of: January 2, 2012
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

In 2012, Add Healthy New Habits the Right Way

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

For me, spending time eating is easy, while making time to exercise is hard. As a result, my weight crept up last year and I am in so-so condition. This year, to alter the equation, I am determined to improve my health through a better diet and to make exercise a priority.

Changing one's diet is challenging. Starting small will encourage success, so I am choosing just two steps. First, I will fill two-thirds of my plate at every meal with vegetables and fruits. Second, I will cut calories by exercising portion control.

To make these changes, The New American Plate is my model. This plan, as explained in detail in a booklet available from the American Institute for Cancer Research, includes meals with a modest portion of flavorful meat, poultry or fish. The rest of the plate is filled with vegetables, grains, legumes and fruit. This one-third, two-thirds balance will also help me consume more fiber, a great way to feel full and satisfied while consuming fewer calories.

New Year's Salad
New Year's Salad

Assembling meals that include more vegetables, grains and legumes may seem difficult. To make it easier here are seven enjoyable ideas I have posted on my refrigerator as a reminder:

  1. Stack Up a Sandwich. Always add a folded lettuce leaf plus slices of tomato, cucumber or apple. Together they can equal one serving of vegetables or fruit.
  2. Be a Fruit Nut. Toss in a handful of raisins, chopped dates or apricots whenever you cook rice, quinoa or barley.
  3. Sneak in Fruit and Fiber. For salads, mix grapefruit juice and Dijon mustard with a teaspoon of oil for a delicious dressing. Or make a New Year’s Salad with a dressing of orange juice with olive oil tossed with arugula, fennel, fuyu persimmon wedges, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and a little reduced-fat feta cheese.
  4. Dress Smart. For salads, mix grapefruit juice and Dijon mustard with a teaspoon of oil for a delicious dressing. Use orange or tomato juice in place of vinegar, too.
  5. Stock up. To sauté and stir-fry, substitute two teaspoons of chicken broth and one of oil for each tablespoon of oil in recipes.
  6. Think Italian. Extra virgin olive oil and authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese pack powerful flavor. Sprinkling a teaspoon of good quality olive oil or a tablespoon of grated cheese over steamed vegetables adds intense Mediterranean taste and a modest amount of fat and calories.
  7. Soup It Up. A half-cup of canned beans, a chopped onion, carrot and celery rib, simmered with broth and a bay leaf provides fat-free, filling servings of legumes and vegetables.

For exercise, rather than bite off more than I can chew, I am taking it in small steps, as well. Before I settle in front of the computer to read the morning paper, I step out for a 15-minute walk. At lunchtime, either I plan dates that require walking for 15 minutes or if eating at my desk, first I push myself outside for a brisk 15 minutes. Those short walks add at least two hours of activity a week, enough to improve fitness and help melt off pounds.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at

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