7 tips for healthy eating habits this fall

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Fall is nearly here! Cooler weather and autumn colors are great, but it’s easy to get caught up in the processed foods of the season: candy corn, apple pie, and of course, pumpkin spice in just about everything you can imagine.

Ready to turn a new leaf on your eating habits this fall? Here are a few tips to consider.

1. Prepare meals and snacks ahead of time.

Cook when you are not hungry to prevent overeating, and store extra portions immediately to save them for future meals. Also, keep some healthy snacks ready in the fridge or pantry. Doing so may help you avoid reaching for junk food like cookies, candy or other quick options.

2. Eat frequently.

Make time for three meals and two snacks per day. Be sure to stop when you feel full to avoid feeling “stuffed” or sick from overeating.

3. Get plenty of fiber in your day.

Adults need approximately 25 grams of fiber per day. Getting the right amount in your diet can help to reduce blood cholesterol and may lower the risk for heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains are all great sources of fiber. These foods can provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.

4. Cut back on sugary foods.

Fight the urge to snack on Halloween candy, and avoid other foods and drinks that contain added sugars. These can easily pack on unnecessary calories throughout your day. Try to be conservative with items like soft drinks, sweetened coffees/teas, cookies, doughnuts and pastries.

5. Choose lean meats and protein.

Choosing lean meats and sources of protein can help cut calories over higher fat choices. Try lean cuts of beef or pork, along with poultry sources like turkey and chicken. Some other great sources of protein include eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.

6. Try fruit for dessert.

Dessert is a great occasional treat. But if you have a sweet tooth, try swapping your dessert for some fresh fruit (apples are great this time of year) to save calories.

7. Save room for dairy.

Dairy foods provide nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, and are great for improved bone health. They can reduce the risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and can also help lower blood pressure. Include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese in your day for a tasty way of gathering nutrients.

References: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Next steps:

5 healthy benefits of visiting your local farmers market

Written by guest blogger Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Sunshine, vibrant flowers, sweet smells and tasty produce are easily found at Kentucky’s own kind of paradise: local farmers markets.

Whether you’re looking for new foods to try during cancer treatment or just looking for a fun local place to explore, the farmers market has you covered. Here are five health perqs of checking out the farmers market in your free time:

1. A new experience

Exploring a farmers market can be a great break from your daily routine. Even if you have been before, vendors and foods often change from week to week. Nearly every visit offers a fun, new experience.

2. An introduction to alternative foods

If your tastes or food preferences are changing due to your cancer treatment, or you are looking for some outside-the-box produce ideas, the farmers market is the place for you!

Farmers markets usually have a mixture of common and unique foods. This variety can help keep your taste buds happy while offering a beneficial mixture of nutrients.

3. A chance to try before you buy

Many growers and harvesters offer samples of their food to try before you purchase. This can be helpful when your tastes change and you’re searching for foods with unfamiliar flavors and textures.

When you find foods you like, ask the grower or harvester for recipe ideas that incorporate their products. They usually have great ideas that they love to share.

4. A resource for top nutrients and flavor

Produce and other foods from local growers are usually at prime ripeness and flavor while being minimally processed. This translates to the foods retaining most of their natural vitamins and minerals, which can help promote good nutrition through cancer treatment and beyond. Many individuals find that local foods also offer richer flavors, which can make them more enjoyable.

5. A way to sneak in exercise

Depending on the size of the market, a bit of walking is usually involved. Farmers markets often have a good mix of walking areas and seating areas for your convenience. You can aim for the recommended 30 minutes of daily activity while scouting out food stands. And don’t forget that seating areas are great places to snack on a recent purchase!

Farmers markets are wonderful places to explore pleasant atmospheres and enjoy a variety of new or classic foods. Visit the National Farmers Market Directory to find more information about your local farmers market, including location and hours of operation.

Happy exploring!

Next steps:

What is the color of your food telling you?

Written by guest blogger Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Did you know the outside appearance of your food can tell you a whole lot about the nutritional benefits inside?

Specifically, a food’s color can indicate what kinds of antioxidants the food has. Antioxidants are found in produce and whole grains and can help protect the cells in your body from damage. They do this by neutralizing free radicals – chemicals that can hurt cells, damage their DNA, and play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants is a great way to improve your health. Next time you go grocery shopping, think “red, white and blue” to load up on foods packed with antioxidants.

  • Red fruits and vegetables have a compound called lycopene. Lycopene can help prevent prostate cancer and heart disease. Foods with lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, sweet red peppers and pink grapefruit
  • White fruits and vegetables have flavonols and isothiocyanates. Both have been found to protect against prostate, colorectal, lung and breast cancer. Isothiocyanates also protect against inflammation. Foods with flavonols include grapes, onions and apples. Isothiocyanates can be found in cauliflower.
  • Blue (or purple) fruits have flavonoids, and more specifically anthocyanins (also found in red foods). Flavonoids may protect against stomach and smoking-related cancers and help prevent inflammation. Anthocyanins can also help improve eyesight. Foods with flavonoids include blueberries and blackberries. Foods with anthocyanins include eggplant and grapes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat 2-3 cups of raw or cooked vegetables and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh, frozen or canned fruits each day. Remember that fruits and vegetables of all colors – including green, orange and yellow ones – are an essential part of a healthy diet.

References: National Cancer Institute

Next steps:

Join us for a free cooking demonstration on July 17

Patients, families and the public are invited to a free cooking demonstration on July 17 presented by Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Make delicious snacks to take on the go!

Join us in creating delicious, portable and energy-filled snacks using ingredients ranging from peanut butter to lemon!

When: July 17, 3-5 p.m.

Where: UK Markey Cancer Center, Psych-Oncology Services, located on the third floor of the Whitney-Hendrickson Building, Room 306.

Parking is available in the Markey visitor lot next to the Whitney-Hendrickson Building, accessible via Hospital Drive.

This event is free, but please RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email at siddhi.shroff@uky.edu.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center.
  • Check out the rest of the Markey Menu blog for more cancer-related nutritional tips, recipes, and health and wellness information.

Kentucky’s summertime greens have nutritional benefits

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

While summer may not have officially started yet, the season has begun in many ways.

Many greens are in season by the start of June. Think spinach, mustard, collard, turnip, beet greens, along with Swiss chard. But greens are more than a tasty benefit of the season. They are also rich in Vitamin A, iron, folic acid, potassium and calcium, which are all great for your overall health.

  • Vitamin A is great for vision, aids in growth and health of skin, and also helps maintain healthy teeth and tissue (soft and skeletal). It is also known as retinol for its role in pigmenting the retina in eyes.
  • Iron is needed for many reasons in our bodies. Iron is a part of hemoglobin and is needed to help make it. It also helps to carry oxygen to our lungs and the rest of our bodies, helps muscles to use oxygen, and is needed to make some hormones and connective tissue. If your body has too little iron, it can cause anemia, which is when your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body.
  • Folic acid is one of the B vitamins required by your body. While it is especially important for pregnant women to prevent major birth defects, it is still essential to help the body make new healthy cells.
  • Potassium is an essential mineral that serves to regulate blood pressure, and it also helps nerve and muscle cells function.
  • Calcium not only helps to build strong bones and teeth, but it helps with blood clotting, muscle function, releasing hormones and regulating your heart rate.

Try this recipe to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet!

Mixed Greens, from National Cancer Institutes’s Down Home Healthy Cooking


  • 2 bunches mustard greens or kale.
  • 2 bunches turnip greens.
  • Pepper to taste (optional).
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste.


  1. Rinse greens well, removing stems.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook greens rapidly, covered, over medium heat for about 25 minutes or until tender.
  3. Serve with some of the pot liquor (liquid from the cooked greens).
  4. If desired, cut greens in pan with a sharp knife and kitchen fork before serving.

Nutrition Content:

Makes 8 servings. Calories: 18, Total fat: 0.1g, Saturated fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 153mg, Dietary fiber: 2g.

Next Steps:

4 food safety rules for cancer patients

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

During the cancer treatment process, treatments like radiation or chemotherapy can weaken the body’s immune system by affecting the blood cells that protect against disease and germs, a condition known as neutropenia. This means that your body will not be able to fight infections as well as a healthy individual’s body would.

Because of this weakened immune system, cancer patients are at a higher risk to develop foodborne illnesses, which can caused by foods that contain harmful bacteria, parasites or viruses, also known as pathogens.

Your doctor may recommend specific food-handling practices to avoid foodborne illnesses, but you should always remember to clean, separate, cook and chill. Read more below about the four steps to follow for food safety.

1. Clean

Wash hands and surfaces often. Cleanliness is an important step toward food safety. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters should be washed with hot, soapy water after each use. We recommend using paper towels to clean these surfaces. If you do use cloth towels to clean, wash them frequently in the hot cycle. Wash your fruits and vegetables under running water, even those with skins that are not eaten. Don’t use soap, but consider using a clean produce brush for foods with firm skins. Do not wash meat, poultry or eggs, as doing so can spread bacteria and increase risk for cross-contamination of foods.

2. Separate

Separate raw meats from other foods. Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry and eggs. Whether they’re in the grocery or your fridge, be sure to keep meat, poultry and eggs separate from all other foods.

3. Cook

Cook foods to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to determine if your food has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria (This table indicates minimum cooking temperatures for a variety of food). Eggs must be cooked until the yolk and white are both firm. Foods can be microwaved, but they must be stirred in the middle of heating, then microwaved thoroughly to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Before you check the internal temperature, allow food to finish cooking by letting it sit for a few minutes after microwaving is complete. You can reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a boil.

4. Chill

Refrigerate foods promptly. Keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F and your freezer temperature at or below 0°F. Perishable foods should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of cooking or buying. Never thaw food on the counter; instead do so in the fridge or microwave or in cold water. If your food is not thawed in a fridge, it must be cooked immediately. And be aware of when food should be thrown out this table lists safe refrigerator and freezer times for many common foods.

Make sure to ask your physician or healthcare provider to determine if you should be following these guidelines, if there are any other foods or products that you should avoid, and any other questions related to diet restrictions.

References: U.S. Department of Human Health Services, Food Safety For Cancer Patients; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know.

Next Steps:

Join us for our free cooking demonstration on May 8

Patients, families and the public are invited to a free cooking demonstration on May 8 presented by Siddhi Shroff, registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Make bowls your way!

Whether it’s a burrito, broth, grain or smoothie bowl, come learn how to make it your way.

When: May 8, 3-5 p.m.

Where: Food Connection Kitchen located on the second floor of The 90 on the UK campus. 440 Hilltop Ave.

Parking is available in the visitor pay lot off of Hilltop Avenue. Vouchers for exit will be distributed at the event.

Please RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email at siddhi.shroff@uky.edu.

Next steps:

  • Siddhi Shroff spends her time helping patients understand their changing appetite and nutritional needs as they go through cancer treatment. Get to know Siddhi in our Q&A blog.
  • Check out the rest of the Markey Menu blog for more cancer-related nutritional tips, recipes, and health and wellness information.

For cancer patients struggling with nutrition, give eggs a try

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Cancer treatment can cause many patients to experience taste and appetite changes, which can affect their overall nutrition. For patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting calories and protein even when your appetite is affected.

One easy way to do that is by incorporating eggs into your diet. Eggs are a great source of nutrition that can be prepared to suit your taste preference.

Sure, eggs are typically breakfast food, but they are versatile enough to be eaten in different forms. Thanks to their softer texture, eggs are easy to chew and swallow when cooked. They can also be easier to eat when treatment causes changes to your mouth, tongue or throat that affect nutrition and appetite.

Next time you feel your appetite is lacking, try mixing it up with different kinds of egg dishes. In addition to adding variety to your diet, eggs are also rich in protein, choline, B vitamins and cholesterol.

  • Protein: Eggs contain six grams of protein, which is 12 percent of the daily value for most adults. Additional protein in the diet can help to heal tissues and fight infection, especially after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Animal sources of protein like eggs provide all the amino acids you need.
  • Choline: Choline is vital to proper functioning of all cells, including metabolism, and is essential to the structure of cells. One egg has approximately 147 mg of choline, which is 20 percent of the daily value for this nutrient.
  • B vitamins: Eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins, which help your body convert food into energy and help your immune system stay healthy. In addition, eggs also have antioxidants that help keep your cells healthy.
  • Cholesterol: Even though cholesterol has developed a bad reputation in recent years, the cholesterol in eggs does not adversely affect blood cholesterol. Eating eggs can actually help elevate your HDL cholesterol, considered the “good” cholesterol, which can reduce your risk for a number of diseases.
  • Low sodium, low in saturated fat: Eggs are also low in sodium and saturated fat, so they are a good addition to help balance your daily diet.

You can incorporate eggs into foods throughout your day with foods like breakfast burritos, herbed Spanish omelets and egg and roasted red pepper wraps. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative to help your appetite.

Next Steps:

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by starting new healthy habits

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

March is known for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness, but did you know it’s also National Nutrition Month? It’s the perfect time to highlight and celebrate the importance of a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the risk for many cancers, as well as the risk for heart disease, hypertension and other conditions.

Here are some tips to help you find and maintain your healthy eating style.

Focus on fruit

Make whole, fresh fruits a priority. Fruits provide many nutrients important for health, including fiber and vitamins A and C. Try to enjoy them fresh, dried, frozen or canned in 100 percent juice. Be sure to check the nutrition label to make sure the fruit does not have added sugars.

Eat a variety of veggies

Vegetables also have an abundance of vitamins and minerals beneficial for health. Add a variety of vegetables to your plate by choosing vegetables of various colors like red, orange, purple, green and yellow. Besides fresh vegetables, frozen and canned vegetables are great ways to add veggies to meals and snacks. They can be just as nutritious as long as you avoid frozen ones with added sauces, gravies, butter, cream or cheese, all of which can add extra calories. And make sure to look for canned vegetables labeled as “low sodium” or “no salt added” to avoid excess sodium.

Make half your grains whole grains

Look for products that have a whole grain listed as one of the primary ingredients. Substituting whole grains in any recipe that calls for white or refined-grain foods can be an easy way to add more whole grains to your day. Whole-grain products such as whole-grain breads, pastas, tortillas, brown rice and quinoa are all great sources of fiber.

Start a protein routine

Incorporate different varieties of protein in your meals. Along with lean meats and poultry, try including other sources of protein such as fish, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds, and beans and peas. These foods can be added to dishes such as salads, soups and casseroles. Instead of frying, prepare these foods with healthier cooking methods like baking, roasting, broiling, grilling, braising or stewing.

Limit sodium, saturated fat and added sugars

Use the nutrition label to help you limit foods and drinks that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. Instead of sugary drinks, drink water infused with fresh fruit. Use vegetable oil instead of butter in recipes like sauces and dips to cut saturated fat and sodium.

Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy

In recipes that call for sour cream, cream or regular cheese, opt for low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk or low-fat cheese along with fat-free options to limit saturated fat in your diet.

Information from ChooseMyPlate.

Next Steps

6 seasonal fruits and veggies to eat during winter

Just because it’s the middle of winter doesn’t mean there aren’t fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables to pick up from the grocery store. Here are six seasonal foods that are sure to add a nutritional boost to your cold-weather diet.

Important Note: Talk to your doctor about these foods before including them regularly to make sure it does not interfere with any medications or diet restrictions in your treatment plan.

  1. Winter squash. Winter squash is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and carotenoids. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your immune system function properly and protects against cell damage. Vitamin A is not only important for vision and immune function, it also ensures that the heart, lungs and kidneys are working properly. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can reduce the risk of some cancers. There are many types of winter squash, including butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and buttercup squash. Using a healthier preparation method like baking can bring out the natural sweetness of the squash, or you can use it as a main ingredient in your soup or stew.
  2. Leafy greens. Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens and mustard greens are all high in vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K helps strengthen your bones, prevents heart disease and is important to the blood-clotting process. These greens can be incorporated into many meals and snacks, such as soups, stews, casseroles, smoothies, wraps and stir-fry.
  3. Root vegetables. Beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and B. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and allows nerves and muscles to function properly, while fiber helps food move throughout your body. Try baking or roasting these as a snack or as part of your meal.
  4. Cruciferous vegetables. Think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These are all good sources of vitamin K and are high in fiber. High-fiber foods can ease constipation, a common side effect during cancer treatment. Try mixing these foods in salads, stir-fries or roasting them on their own.
  5. Pomegranate. This fruit is popular around the holidays, but is available throughout the winter season. Pomegranates are a great source of vitamin C and vitamin K and are rich in antioxidants. You can incorporate this fruit into your day by adding it to your cereal, smoothie or oatmeal. You can also drink it as a juice. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice have been found to lower bad cholesterol, which is good for heart health. Be sure to read the nutrition label before buying the juice to be sure it is not diluted with other fruit juices and does not have any added sugars.
  6. Citrus. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, clementine, mandarin oranges, lemons and limes thrive during winter. Most varieties are juiciest and in season this time of year. They are loaded with vitamin C, which can help heal wounds, maintain healthy bones and cartilage, and enhance the absorption of iron from foods like leafy greens. Try including citrus as part of a salad by making a dressing out of it, or include it as part of your main meal!

Next steps: