Eating Healthy Cuts Cancer Risk, Too

I avoid those airplane snacks. I carry calorie-controlled meal replacement and snack bars so I can sidestep the fried foods or fatty foods that are frequently served during meals at meetings, or what I may find at the airport (chicken Caesar salad without the croutons or dressing is becoming a too-regular habit. Occasionally, I throw in some sliced/diced fresh fruit in a cup).

I was once called "Mr. No Fun" by a server at a local waffle shop in north Georgia when I asked for an egg-white omelet, no cheese, no grits, no toast, and yes, please, some sliced tomatoes on the side.

For me, that's what it takes to get things right. That, and a lot of perseverance, since the results are slow to come.

The Great American Eat Right Challenge can arm you with information that you may find helpful in trying to make better choices.

For example, did you know that a 12-ounce beer is the equivalent of a 1½ mile walk? Or that 1 ounce of potato chips is also worth 1½ miles on your tired feet? How about the fact that two slices of thin (yes, THIN) crust pepperoni pizza is worth 5 miles?

I suspect most of us don't even walk 2 or 3 miles during the course of a day, let alone all the miles it would take to walk off the junk food we eat during the week.

How about this one: One extra large cheeseburger with sauce, one extra large french fries and one extra large soda. Want to take a guess at how many miles it will take to walk this meal off? The answer, if you're interested, is at the end of this column.

And then, there are portion sizes to consider. Do you know what a normal portion of pasta — a half cup or a whole cup — looks like on your plate?

My wife and I like to go to a neighborhood Italian restaurant that is part of a large national chain. Great food, good atmosphere, relatively inexpensive, fun and humongous portions. We are actually able to eat several more meals during the week from the food we take home each time we visit this place.

We have no idea how they remain profitable when they load so much on your plate, but if we ate everything they served, we would have to run more than a marathon to work it off!

I think by now you get the idea.

Small Sacrifice, Big Benefits

Some may say that eating right and being healthy means giving up everything you like. I would argue that this is not the case.

No one is perfect. It's the approach you take to your diet — and your life — that dictates who you are and how you feel. It also dictates whether you will be able to live your life relatively free of disease, and have the mobility to enjoy that life.

By the way, I went back to the waffle place the next day, and the server remembered me. "You're that 'no fun' guy," she said.

Well, I would dispute that I have no fun. I just make different choices — most of the time.

The benefits are that my weight is down, my blood pressure is down, my cholesterol is down, my flexibility is up, and I am enjoying life just fine, thank you. And maybe because I have "no fun," I will have fun longer than I would have had otherwise.

Take a look at the Great American Eat Right Challenge Web site, and figure out what you can do for yourself and your family to eat better, stay healthier and reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases.

Make a plan, and do what works for you. I promise that you, too, can have plenty of fun getting healthy, and staying healthy.

Enjoy!

(Incidentally, the answer to the question about the number of miles it would take to walk off the extra large burger, extra large fries and extra large soda? 15 miles!)

Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. You can view the full blog by clicking here.

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