Healthy Choices Start on Your Plate 

Research shows that eating more plant foods can go a long way toward helping you feel your best and to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. National organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research have guidelines for cancer prevention and prevention of cancer recurrence.  

As you read through the guidelines, it might be overwhelming to think about how you’ll start following the recommendations. We encourage you to take it one step at a time. The good news is – implementing any of these recommendations can help to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence and other chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.  


Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and other plant foods.

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to follow a vegan diet. The important thing is to eat mainly plants, most of the time. Plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans are full of the nutrients you need for a healthy immune system.

Limit consumption of red and processed meats.

Red meats include beef, pork, and lamb; processed meats include dried, salted, smoked and/or cured meats, like cold cuts, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, among others. These types of meats have been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and may be associated with other types of cancer as well.

Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks

These are high in calories and do not contain nutrients to benefit your body. Sparkling water or flavored seltzers are great alternatives with little to no calories.

Limit consumption of “fast food” and other processed foods high in fat, starches, or sugars.

Because these foods are highly processed, they do not offer much nutritional value and are typically high in calories. 

Limit alcohol consumption.

There is no “safe” amount of alcohol intake but drinking beyond moderation increases the risk for some cancers. Moderate drinking is equal to 1 serving or less per day for women and 2 servings or less per day for men. One serving is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Aim to maintain your weight and avoid weight gain. Significant weight gain during adult life is associated with higher risk of certain types of cancers and chronic diseases. Weight loss can be challenging, so try to maintain the weight you are at and focus on a healthy diet and regular physical activity. If you are considering weight loss, studies have shown that women are more successful when they use a structured program with ample social support. Talk with your doctor about what approach to weight loss might work best for you.

Be physically active.

150–300 minutes per week (this is about 30-60 minutes, 5 days per week) of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The American Institute for Cancer Research has found that being more active is better for reducing cancer risk, regardless of your weight. Try to find activities you enjoy, as this will make it easier to stay active — going for a brisk walk or dancing to your favorite fast-paced songs in the kitchen, for example.

Don’t use dietary supplements for cancer prevention.

Aim to meet your nutrient needs through diet alone. The quality and content of dietary supplements varies widely, and they are often expensive. Consider spending your money on buying a variety of plant foods instead of supplements. This way, you can be confident that you are getting the nutrients that your body needs.

Don’t’ smoke or chew tobacco.

Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke from others, as well.  What may be surprising is that tobacco exposure is linked not only to lung cancer but also to other types of cancer that occur throughout the body. 

Protect yourself from excess sun.

The connection between sun and skin cancer is well known and using sunscreen and/or wearing protective clothing is an easy way to reduce your risk. 


Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Chronic stress is a factor that may contribute to cancer risk in an indirect way. For example, people under stress may cope with unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, drinking alcohol, or being less active, and these behaviors increase cancer risk. Try to find healthy ways to deal with stress, like meditating, going for a walk, or seeking support from friends. As part of this course, you will learn how a mindfulness practice—which can help to reduce your stress—can be built into your routine.

The above guidelines are a great foundation for the nutrition, culinary and mindfulness education content that you’ll be learning throughout the course. Next, you’ll read about the American Institute for Cancer Research’s nutrition guidelines for breast cancer survivors, which are similar to what you’ve just read through, but with a few more details. 

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