Mary Kuzmick, M.S., R.D., C.D., clinical nutrition specialist, and Damarise Navarro, MPH, health education specialist
Most people know that a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate goal; but often it isn’t very easy to achieve. There are several components to a healthy lifestyle:
- A well-balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- A good night’s sleep
- A moderate approach to reducing stress
Achieving a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can start by focusing on one aspect of your life, and then slowly incorporate the others. This may help make achieving a healthy lifestyle a little easier.
Nutrition is a great place to begin
The old saying “you are what you eat” is more accurate than you may think. Everything you eat is broken down into the building blocks that are used to create new cells. Your body is constantly creating new cells to keep your bones, muscles, skin and internal organs strong. Eating a varied diet of mostly unprocessed foods ensures that your body has all the building blocks it needs.
Vegetables. The foundation of a healthy diet is a wide variety of fresh, non-starchy vegetables. Ideally fresh vegetables should fill at least half of your plate at every meal. “Non-starchy” means vegetables that are crisp, and primarily green, red, yellow or purple. Examples include lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. One of the qualities of these vegetables is that they are generally lower in calories than other foods, such as meat or grains. Eating more vegetables usually results in eating fewer calories overall, which can help you maintain a healthy bodyweight. Additionally, vegetables are a great source of fiber, which helps keep you feeling full and supports regular bowel movements.
The color of a vegetable indicates the nutrients it contains. For example, vitamin A is an orange pigment that gives carrots their signature color. Eating a rainbow of vegetables ensures that you are getting a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Protein. In addition to vegetables, every meal should contain a good source of protein. Protein is vital for every process in your body. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will break down muscle to get the protein it needs. The best sources of dietary protein are meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds and beans.
Fruit. Fruits are also part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Like vegetables, fruit contains a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A diet high in fruit also may help reduce the risk of some illnesses. Fruit is not necessary at every meal, but it is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without consuming refined sugar.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates from whole grains or starchy vegetables are another component of a healthy meal. These are often called complex carbohydrates because they contain a large amount of fiber and take longer to break down. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn and peas. Whole grains are slightly processed and are generally brown. Brown rice is a whole grain, whereas white rice is a refined grain. Whole grains are healthier because they contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains.
Fat. The last component of a healthy meal is a small amount of plant-based fat. Including fat in each meal will help carry flavor throughout your food and make your meal feel more satisfying. Fat is very high in calories and can be challenging to digest in large amounts. When eaten in excess, fat can clog your arteries. Nutrition experts recommend limiting how much fat you eat.
Plant-based fats are generally less likely to lead to heart disease. Vegetable oils, nut butters, seeds, avocado and coconut are good examples of plant-based fats. It is important to reduce the amount of non-plant-based fats, which typically come from animals, such as meat, eggs and dairy products.
Sugar and Alcohol. Two components that do not contribute to a healthy diet are refined sugar and alcohol. Both of these contain a large number of calories, with no additional nutritional value. They create work for your liver, which keeps it from focusing on eliminating harmful toxins from your body. Eating a lot of refined sugar and drinking a lot of alcohol can cause fat deposits in the liver, which can result in multiple health issues. While it is not necessary to ban all refined sugar and alcohol from your diet, it is important to limit them as much as possible.
Building the majority of your meals around non-starchy vegetables, protein, whole grains and plant-based fats will improve your health in countless ways. It will support regular metabolism, help sustain your energy, give your body the tools it needs to fight illness, and provide fuel to build healthy new cells.
For More Information and Help
Cancer treatment can have a profound impact on a person’s eating habits.
Registered dietitians at the Swedish Cancer Institute offer individualized nutrition counseling and nutrition classes to help you in your journey toward a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition counseling is available onsite at Swedish’s First Hill, Issaquah and Ballard campuses, and by phone at Highline and Bellevue.
Please call 206-215-6213 to schedule an appointment or phone consult.
Please speak with your health-care team if you are interested in these services at Swedish Edmonds.
Breakfast Energy Drink
Ever wish you could make a simple, healthy energy drink to get your day started? Well, there is no need to wish anymore! This nutritious breakfast smoothie will increase your energy. It is also very simple to make.
This smoothie combines leafy super greens (kale and spinach) with seasonal fruits, nuts and seeds for a cancer-fighting kick-start to your morning. It also contains pumpkin, which is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene. Pumpkin is an organic compound that helps promote normal cell growth. The beta-carotene in pumpkin also helps prevent cell damage that occurs when your body processes oxygen.
2 medium kale leaves, stems removed
1 cup spinach leaves, loosely packed
1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit (berries are a good option)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
3 Tbsp. seeds or nuts (almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds are a few options)
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1¼ cups soy or dairy milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup of ice cubes (6-8)
1. Combine all ingredients in blender or food processer.
2. Blend on high until smooth.
3. Let sit for 1 minute to thicken before serving.
Servings: Makes 2 Servings (about 1½ cups per serving)
Nutritional Information Per Serving
12 grams total fat (1 gram saturated fat)
24 grams carbohydrate
13 grams protein
8 grams dietary fiber
111 milligrams sodium
Courtesy of AICR’s Health-e-Recipes