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Get the Most From Your Meal: Dietary Tips for National Nutrition Month (Part 1)

Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? Initiated in 1973 as a week-long event, then in 1980 extended to a month-long event, this nutrition education and information campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Though we celebrate and emphasize nutrition for the whole month, nutrition information, sound eating habits and physical wellbeing should be interwoven through our daily lives, all year long.

Those from the Oncology Nutrition Department at the Cancer Center Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic have some tips and tricks to increase chances of survivorship through nutrition.

Whether you have a new cancer diagnosis, you are undergoing treatment or you have completed treatment, you have the power to choose what you eat each day to make an impact on your health and quality of life.  

There is an evolving amount of research that is demonstrating how your nutrition habits may impact your risk of cancer recurrence and other health issues. Being overweight and being too sedentary may be risk factors for cancer recurrence.

While attaining a healthy body weight and establishing a routine exercise program do not guarantee that you will not get cancer again, there is convincing evidence that these choices have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing.  

The combination of staying lean, eating a healthy diet and exercising routinely often result in the best health outcomes.

Bump Up the Fiber

One way to make your diet healthier is to increase your fiber intake.

The following foods can really bump up the fiber: ground flax seeds, chia seeds, raspberries, oats, lentils (any and all beans, for that matter), apples, Brussels sprouts, almonds and Swiss chard. 

All plant foods — including whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables — contain fiber. These are simply a few suggestions to get you started.

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili

» 1 cup quinoa, uncooked

» one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

» one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

» one 15-ounce can black beans

» 15-ounce can kidney beans

» 2 chicken breasts

» 3 cups vegetable stock

» 1 large bell pepper, chopped

» 1 teaspoon cumin

» 1 teaspoon chili powder

Place all ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Before serving, remove chicken from the slow cooker, shred it using two forks to pull chicken apart and return it to the slow cooker.

Keep warm in slow cooker until you are ready to serve. Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or cheese and enjoy.

Recipe adapted from registered dietitians and fitness coaches The Nutrition Twins.

Eat an Abundance of Vegetables

Aim to consume 2-4 cups per day of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, greens (spinach, kale, arugula and more), celery, zucchini, cabbage, onions, cucumbers, asparagus, jicama, Brussels sprouts, garlic, leeks, fennel, mushrooms, shallots and scallions.

If you’re worried that a veggie-filled meal will be healthy but unsatisfying? Withhold judgment until you try this quick and healthy “pasta” recipe.

6 Ingredient Veggie “Pasta”

» 4 medium zucchini

» 4 cups spinach

» 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

» 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce (homemade or store-bought, whichever is on hand)

» Salt and pepper to taste

» Oil, for misting pan

To make “noodles,” spiralize the zucchini with a spiralizer tool. If you do not have a spiralizer, you can julienne the zucchini or use a veggie peeler to make wide noodles.

In an oiled pan, sautée mushrooms over medium-high heat until tender and they begin to release their juices. Then add the zucchini and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate pan, cook spinach until wilted. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper to the pan with the zucchini noodles and cook until heated through.

Plate the “pasta” and top with sautéed spinach.

Recipe adapted from Alexandra Dusenberry of

Sarah Washburn, MS, RDN, CSO, Kristin Price, RDN, and dietetic intern Alexandra Dusenberry work at Sansum Clinic. Recipes submitted by Oncology Nutrition Department at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.


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