Step Up to the (New American) Plate for Cancer Prevention

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Could you meet the New American Plate (NAP) challenge?

We know nine people who are ready to try! This spring, these folks are stepping up to the New American Plate Challenge to lower their cancer risk through healthier eating, increased physical activity and weight loss if appropriate.

Every Monday for 12 weeks, they’ll get  a specific challenge (diet or physical activity) that helps them move towards the NAP way of eating or to the AICR recommendation to get at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity.

We’ll post the challenge each week here and follow their progress by sharing some of their comments and photos.

This week’s challenge is:

Challenge #12 (sent to participants May 30)

This week’s challenge is:

Minding My P’s and Q’s (Cues)

This week I will eat according to the New American Plate principles of proportion and portion and use cue strategies at least four days this week.

Let’s check in for the final week –

From sPg:

I guess it worked…well, mostly.  The good news is that 12 weeks later, some things are now just natural and eating according to the New American Plate principles is well, “Normal”.  Gone are my lunch meat sandwiches (let’s face it, lunchmeat was never *that* good); gone is a weekly menu that had a burger and beef chili and meatloaf and pork chops in it (a bit to my husband’s chagrin, but he’s coming around on fish which we now have at least once a week, with veggie days more frequent than they ever were), gone is my careless pouring of a glass of wine (now I think, is this the day that makes sense?), gone is me eating without thinking, “Is this the right decision for my health? Is this the right decision for my family? Is this a meal that will help me live longer?”.  I’ll admit, I’m a little sad to “know” what I know now, but at the end of the day, if I can make these small changes and help my family live longer, well…its worth it.  I haven’t just given up things though.  I’m loving sardines (who knew hidden calcium could be so fun!). I also have found the perfect farmer’s market sausage that let’s me eat sausage without nitrates and also give a local farmer some business. I love tea and am happy to have a beloved beverage affirmed.

The exercise stuff has been tougher.  I’m absolutely moving more, but not yet as much as I would like. The challenge inspired me to think a little more creatively. I found a fellow mom to walk with in the morning once a week; I took my daughter to a new park that was a farther walk this weekend because I knew the step count would be better for me.

I know I didn’t come close to my weight goals, but I think the 12 weeks helped me “get my mind right”, as my father would say.  Change is hard and food and exercise are really personal decisions.  Even the clearest of evidence requires a little getting used to, which is what this process has done.  For me, the challenge doesn’t end here. I’m moving on to Weight Watchers, something I wasn’t ready to do before.  The  challenge laid the groundwork, but I realize that my portions are still a work in progress. But, so am I and in all honesty, I just shared with my husband that I feel in control of my health for the first time in a few years and THAT has made these past twelve weeks some of the most important (potentially) of my adult life.

From miriaminthemorning:
The best parts of the challenge overall were:

  • the challenge of finding extra pockets of exercise
  • eating lots of colors
  • eating more fruit (when encouraged to do so by Alice)
  • eating more of a variety of foods

The toughest parts of the challenge were:

  • cutting down calorie-laden beverages (soy lattes!)
  • cutting down portion size
  • writing down what I ate during the day

My favorite cues this week:

  • smaller plates
  • start with a salad
  • try not to eat as an emotional response

Best thing?  I started running again this week (see photo)



Challenge #11 (sent to participants May 23)
This week’s challenge is:
“Be FITT – Every Step Counts!”
Adding UP Minutes: This week I will find at least 10 minutes of “hidden” activity opportunities every day.  This will help me to reach and maintain my ultimate goal of doing 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days per week.
Stepping on UP: This week everyday I will find at least 1,000 “hidden” step opportunities every day.  This will help me reach and maintain my ultimate goal of 10,000 – 12,000 steps daily.

From: Liz

went for a nice run on the beach while home on vacation! its a beautiful day!



From: sPg

Every step does count—and sometimes its hard to find them! I recommitted to walking one direction to work, or at least part of it. That made a difference.  I also find that building in a trip to the park with my daughter gives me steps (even if some of them are up and down a piece of playground equipment!).  Its really the awareness that matters. Also, my husband recently bought a pedometer and now we talk “steps”, seeing who has had a 12,000+ day or who was below 10,000!

From Miriaminthemorning:

Hi everyone…
Here are my added efforts:
1.  Walking up seven flights of stairs instead of using the elevator in my apt. building
2.  Scheduling “walking” instead of “coffee” supervisions at work
3.  Doing a little bit of weights work (see attached photo) for ten minutes before I leave for work and when I get home
Happy weekend!

From Liz:

went on a hike this weekend…8 miles, 6 hours…but a great low cost workout thats a ton of fun! heres the view from the top of the Old Rag Hike.

Challenge #10 (sent to participants May 16)

This week’s challenge is: Calcium Balance: This week I will eat or drink three servings daily of calcium rich foods.

From sPg:

From miriaminthemorning:

This week’s challenge came at a good time, as my doctor called me on Monday to say that I needed more calcium.  Kismet!I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t eat much dairy at all except for cheese, and I’ve been trying to cut down on that, too.  So this week I started getting almond and rice milk which is fortified with calcium, and I continue to eat lots of calcium-rich vegetables.  In addition, I got some chewable calcium gummy bears, which sPg and I have enjoyed with our lunches.  See photo below!

From Jane:

This was a great week to combine week 10 and week 9 challenges. I have become a huge fan of Greek yogurt. I like all of it. I’d it’s plain I add a little honey or a little pure maple syrup. My favorite is chonani blueberry. Although Dannon is really good too. Now to get back to the combing the two challenges. My favorite snack this week has been a bowl of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blueberry Greek yogurt. It is wonderful. Definitely something I will continue to eat.

From Katie:

Adding calcium rich foods has been a terrific challenge – there are so many!
My morning iced coffee includes a little less than 1/2 c milk;  fruit with Greek yogurt.
… sardines (even got my husband to try them) with a big salad for lunch. . . also shredded Parmesan cheese as a topping to the salad.
I have a great recipe for kale ragout with canellini beans and tomatoes that incorporates the calcium rich greens and the white beans.
I made a pan-fried trout recipe one night (pictured) which I chose because it included a sided almond topping that was SO tasty. Not a whole calcium serving but a little more . Pictured with the fish is corn on the cob, and a wonderful sweet potato hummus that has tahini, chickpeas and sweet potato – all of which pack a nice calcium punch.
*a new snack (pictured) – any whole grain bread spread with plain Greek yogurt, salt and pepper and fresh veggies of choice,  a small helping of yogurt, but it adds up.
* a new smoothie recipe to try with strawberries, silken tofu and honey..Later, lassi – an Indian yogurt drink : plain yogurt, cold water and any fruit of choice.

This weekend I intend to attempt homemade miso soup with seaweed, and edamame on the side.

One more picture to share with NAP Challenge participants – this is a delicious smoothie featuring silken tofu for calcium and protein.

Recipe is approximate:
1/4 c silken tofu
1 1/2 c mixed fresh berries of choice (I used strawberries and blueberries)
1/2 c of strongly brewed red roobois tea, chilled (I used a blend called Frooty Loop: Red Roobios, apple, mango, dried pineapple, rosehips, and orange)
1-2 tsp honey

Blend on high for 20-30 seconds, serve cold

Challenge #9 (sent to participants May 9)

Going Cuckoo For Color: This week I will eat at EACH MEAL one or two servings of red, yellow, orange, green, blue or purple fruits or vegetables.

From Katie:

This week has been a fun challenge.Variety of food however, has been a blast, and actually has been nice since what I want to eat seems to change almost hourly! My three favorite colorful meals this week:

Breakfast: Kashi brand blueberry waffles – these little guys have about the same calories as my usual whole wheat English muffin, along with 6g dietary fiber, 4g protein and a “7 grain flour” Kashi lists as including: whole wheat, oats, rye, brown rice, triticale, barley and buckwheat. And it’s got ground flaxseed! All that AND blueberries! I had these a couple of mornings, with some fresh cold pink watermelon chunks.

A colorful lunch, pictured, included an avocado with lime juice, halved grape tomatoes and a hard-boiled egg (I forgot my whole wheat bread slice that day so I just ate it like a salad!)

And a colorful dinner, pictured, was a wonderful lean beef stir fry, with bright green broccoli rapini, yellow bell peppers and shitake muchrooms, with a colorful wild brown rice blend. Dessert that night was fat, juicy red grapes.

Thanks for this challenge – it inspired some fun shopping and eating this week!

From sPg:

I love this week’s challenge. Nothing makes me happier than a pretty plate and a little nudge has been fun. I went out of my way to include peppers and beets in my lunches. I even used the challenge as an excuse to make a new kind of carrots (braised in carrot juice, ginger, garlic and jalapeno).  The fact that I now eat salads for lunch once or twice a week is entirely due to the challenge! Thank you!

The meal that I took a photo of did have homemade meatloaf.  The plate was small, but it was still probably a nudge big at 4 oz or so.  The soup was a homemade puree of seasonal veggies (greens, asparagus, a few carrots, celery in a light broth) and I did have a few pickled beets on the side (but they wouldn’t fit on the plate).  The cucumbers are a miso cucumber salad with sesame seeds, which was a Cooking Light recipe that was interesting and pretty tasty.

We are also kicking up our walking. I now walk with another mom one morning a week and my husband is also now wearing a pedometer and we are checking in with each other on our “steps per day”.  Feels good to be moving.  I also feel a little more focused after feeling a little discouraged last week.

The challenge continues to be a “challenge” in some ways.  It can be discouraging to eat better, but still not see weight loss of any significance.  I do miss eating a few things in blissful ignorance but I still can’t help but think its made a difference. One example: I don’t know if I’ve had processed meats more than once since the challenge began. I love sausage, but my brain seems to have responded well to the “but it will give you cancer” response.

Hoping still for a strong finish and enjoying a week of colorful plates!

From miriaminthemorning:

> Hi!  I thought I’d share a photo from our kitchen at work this morning – how nicely does that fit into this week’s challenge?!  This was my favorite week’s challenge.  I’ve been eating salads for lunch and for/with dinner, and I’ve been filling them with (purple) cabbage, all sorts of peppers (red, yellow, green), blueberries and blackberries and beets (blue/purple), and artichoke hearts and hearts of palm (yellowish).  The exercise is going well, and though I’m struggling with drinking ridiculous beverages (coke, koolaid at parties, etc.) and have given in to the cupcakes at work twice this week, I feel like I’m mostly on-track.  Hope everyone’s well!

From Liz:

strawberries and lowfat yogurt…delicious breakfast at my desk!

Read more… “Step Up to the (New American) Plate for Cancer Prevention”

Dog Owners More Likely to be Active

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Those early morning dog walks can now give dog owners something else to feel good about: A new study suggests that dog owners walk more and get more physical activity overall than their non-dog owning counterparts.

And among dog owners, those who walked their canines walked about an hour more per week compared to non-dog walkers.

In the study, researchers asked about 5,900 Michigan residents their walking and overall activity habits. And the dog owners were asked about their dog-walking habits. (About 40 percent of the participants owned dogs.) If participants walked their pet at least 10 minutes at a time, they were classified as a dog walker.

It probably comes as no surprise to dog owners that they walked significantly more than non-dog owners. Slightly over a quarter walked their dog at least 150 minutes per week, the amount of activity recommended by the government. AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of daily moderate activity for cancer prevention.
Read more… “Dog Owners More Likely to be Active”

Sedentary Guidelines: Don’t Do It

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You might not want to sit down for this: In a world first, Canada has just released evidence-based guidelines on sedentary behavior.

The guidelines are a big deal because it is a recognition of the ever-growing research suggesting that being sedentary has negative health effects independent of physical activity. That means sitting around for long bouts at a time may cause health problems, even for regular exercisers.

The Canadian guidelines were developed for 5 to 17 year olds and basically, they advise youths to spend less time being sedentary throughout the day. Children and teenagers can do this, by:

  • spending no more than two hours per day watching TV, playing computer games or viewing other ‘screens’ —  less screen time was linked to more health benefits; and
  • not driving around in cars or sitting for too long, and not spending too much time indoors throughout the day

You can read more about the guidelines and get to them from a piece in PLoS Blogs.

We’ve written about sedentary behavior and cancer risk before – you can read something about it here.  A lot of the research in the field is emerging but what is known is how sitting around for long periods of time increases the risk of gaining weight or being overweight. End excess body fat, in turn, is a cause of seven different cancers.

There’s a lot of intriguing questions scientists are exploring relating to sedentary behaviors – what is it really doing physiologically? But adding breaks to your day can’t hurt, and it may help with weight control.

For any office-workers, do you have any ideas how to break up your day?  Please share.