Five Secrets for a Festive and Cancer-Protective Holiday Table
'Tis the season for indulging. From Grandma’s special cookies to over-the-top party buffets, we struggle to find that magical balance that allows us to enjoy our holiday favorites and still maintain our commitment to a healthy body.
No single meal or holiday treat means disaster, but weeks of too much fat and sugar and too few vegetables can mean starting the year with a few extra pounds.
AICR’s expert report and its updates link overweight and obesity with an increased risk for several cancers, and if skipping veggies and fruit becomes a habit, you miss out on the health protection of these superfoods.
Smart Secrets for Sensible Celebrations
Fortunately, there’s room on your plate and in your glass for health promoting foods and holiday extras. Follow these five tips and you’ll be well on your way to a holiday season filled with “healthy indulgences.”
- Practice Party Plate Proportions. Carve out 1/3 or less of your plate for the holiday meat and leave the other 2/3 for foods like cranberries, roasted squash, green salad and a whole wheat roll. Keep added fat and sugar to a minimum, and that 2/3 of your plate offers fewer calories per bite than many animal foods. Are you cooking? Try this: Kale with Sweet Corn.
- Go for the (Whole) Grain. Fiber offers a one-two punch: it lowers risk for colorectal cancer and studies suggest it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Whole grains also contain substances such as phenols and saponins shown to be cancer-fighters in lab research. Most important – it’s delicious: Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad with Asparagus and Walnuts.
- Color Your Table with Synergy. No one food will lead to good health. Research suggests we may get the most health benefits from eating a wide variety of plant foods because compounds in those foods work together (synergy) to keep our immune system strong and our bodies generally healthy. One way to get a variety of phytochemicals (plant compounds) is to eat colorful foods. Colors in plant foods signify different phytochemicals that protect us in a number of ways. Here’s a colorful dish that features winter squash: Acorn Squash with Beet and Apple Chutney.
- Practice Party Plate Portions. For most holiday foods the key word is small. For rich appetizers, nuts, desserts and buttery sides, think slivers and small handful as the portion size. Whole grains and starchy vegetables (corn and potatoes) should be a heaping handful or 1/2 baseball-sized (about 1/2 cup). This allows you to enjoy you favorites without over doing it. Check out this chart to help you through the holidays.
- Balance the Beverages. Get creative with your beverages by dressing up plain or sparkling water with fruit or juice. Limit alcohol, sodas and other sugary beverages, which add calories that don’t keep you satisfied for long. Alcohol increases the risk of several cancers, including breast and colorectal, and sugary beverages are linked to weight gain, overweight and obesity. Make your own beautiful non-calorie water infusion.
- For more recipes visit the AICR Test Kitchen and learn more about the New American Plate.
- Check out our special collection of holiday recipes.
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