About Sonja

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. You can follow her on twitter @SonjaGoedkoopRD.

Berlin Fast Food Reconstructed, Cancer-Protective (and Vegetarian) Style

I love to travel and gather food inspiration from trying new cuisines – that Smørrebrød from Denmark was my addition to the article Cancer Fighting Foods from Around the World.

While there are several ways to make better choices when traveling that I wrote about here, I also enjoy trying dishes as they are and later adapting them to a healthier version at home. During that same Smørrebrød-filled trip through Northern Europe, I tried several exotic foods, but one of the absolute best things I ate was actually fairly simple: a roasted vegetable döner kebab in Berlin.

Kebob2Döner kebab (originally Turkish) is a very popular fast food item in Berlin. It’s traditionally made with shaved lamb, beef or chicken in a thick white flatbread or wrap, topped with cabbage, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and usually a yogurt sauce. The dish is generally far from healthy due to the high-fat meat, thick white bread/pita and creamy sauce.

The one I had was a bit healthier than a standard döner kebab since it was made with roasted vegetables instead of meat, and the combination of flavors and textures was incredible. Continue reading

Top Four Travel Tips to Keep You Eating Healthy

End-of-summer vacations are here and it’s time to unwind, relax and enjoy the sunshine. I love traveling so I know first-hand that trips can be a real challenge when it comes to eating healthy.

For me and many of my patients, travel means more dining out and different foods. Restaurant meals are almost always higher in calories, fat and salt than meals prepared at home, making it easy to gain weight when dining out multiple times per day. Since obesity is one of the primary factors contributing to increased cancer risk, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.

Here are my top tips to stay healthy and avoid weight gain on vacation:

1. Pack snacks.
Even with great intentions, if it’s been more than 5 hours since your last meal and you’re really hungry, you’re more likely to impulsively eat something unhealthy like those cookies at the rest stop. And it’s just so easy to eat too much, too quickly. Avoid this by having a small snack between meals that are many hours apart so you can make smart choices later. I always bring multiple pre-portioned snack bags in my purse or suitcase when traveling.

My favorite travel snacks: Continue reading

Kicking Up Cancer Prevention: Helping Kids Who Are Overweight Get Active

Today, there’s a world of entertainment for kids that has nothing to do with playing outside. It’s not uncommon for the overweight children I counsel to tell me they spend four or more hours a day watching TV or on a tablet, which leaves little time to be active.

youth baseball player in catcher's uniform squatting in position

Establishing healthy activity and eating patterns needs to start at a young age for us to see

a reversal in the obesity epidemic, one of the largest contributing factors to increased cancer risk. Yet only about a quarter of kids get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily, including kids who are overweight, which is about a third of children and adolescents.

For these kids, it can be more difficult to be active due to embarrassment, peer bullying and physical challenges associated with getting into an activity routine. Overweight and obese youth also tend to be less active due to poor motor skills, says Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, an expert on pediatric exercise at The College of New Jersey.

So how can we get kids who are overweight to be more active? Faigenbaum presented research at a recent weight management conference on effective ways to increase activity among overweight youth. Continue reading