A tasty and healthy Thanksgiving? It’s possible with these easy tips.

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

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to enjoy great food in the company of friends and family. But it’s also an opportunity to overindulge when faced with a huge spread of the usual appetizers, side dishes and desserts.

The good news is it’s possible to enjoy your favorite holiday food and traditions while still making healthy choices. Here’s how:

1. Be smart about portions.

How much of each Thanksgiving dish should you eat? It can be tricky to balance all the different options without overindulging. Remember to eat until you are satisfied and not stuffed. And try using a smaller plate this year, as bigger plates can encourage you to grab more food and potentially eat more than necessary.

Here are a few easy ways to think about healthy portions this year:

  • Turkey: Aim for a palm-sized serving of white or dark meat.
  • Green vegetables: Take up to a baseball-sized serving of salad and other vegetable side dishes.
  • Stuffing, mashed potatoes and other starches: Try not to take more than a 1/2 cup of each, or a serving about the size of a scoop of ice cream.
  • Butter for rolls: A dice-sized serving should suffice.
  • Pie and dessert: Stay away from the big slices, and aim for a piece that’s about the size of a regular-sized light bulb.

2. Consider some healthy ingredient alternatives.

Food preparation is another great way to cut calories and incorporate healthier choices into your holiday meal. Try the following:

  • Cook with low-fat, low-sodium options and limit saturated fats. Use milk or Greek yogurt in recipes that call for heavy cream. Choose low-sodium broths, and cut the amount of cheese and butter in a recipe in half.
  • Choose whole-grain breads, grains, rice and pasta when making your favorite holiday staples. Try using whole-grain bread for your favorite stuffing recipe, or using whole-grain pasta or brown rice for any recipes or casseroles.
  • Consider adding vegetables to your favorite side dishes, such as casseroles, potatoes, pasta or rice.

3. Think twice about seconds.

Do you best to avoid going back for seconds.

If you’re craving a second serving, give yourself a little time to digest and feel full. Sticking to one serving can prevent you from feeling stuffed or bloated afterward.

4. Control your sweet tooth.

Limit the amount of sweets you consume to one treat or dessert. Splitting a dessert with a family member or friend is an easy way to cut calories in half.

5. Don’t skip other meals.

Skipping meals earlier in the day to “save room” for one big meal later is not a good idea. Continue to eat regular meals – including a healthy breakfast – and you will be less tempted to overeat once dinner is served.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Next steps:

Simple snacking tips for patients undergoing cancer treatment

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

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

Maintaining good nutrition during cancer treatment is vitally important: It helps you keep up your strength, maintain your weight and stay properly nourished.

Unfortunately, cancer treatment often causes a number of undesirable side effects that affect appetite and can get in the way of a healthy diet.

One way to combat those side effects is by making small, easy snacks a staple of your diet.

Simple, frequent snacks can help you maintain your weight, and eating a variety of different kinds of snacks can help manage poor appetite and other side effects, such as nausea or taste changes.

Preparing meals and snacks ahead of time also saves you time during the week and prevents extra trips to the grocery store.

Here are some examples of quick and easy snacks to keep stocked in the pantry or fridge. Try these options to see what works for you and continue following any diet restrictions given to you by your doctor.

  • Cottage cheese and fruit.
  • Peanut butter and crackers.
  • Cheese and crackers.
  • Ice cream.
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters.
  • Sandwiches: egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, and peanut butter and jelly.
  • Vegetables with dips (sauce, dressing, hummus, etc.)
  • Homemade milkshakes and smoothies.

Check out highlights from my most recent cooking demonstration at Markey to learn more about the benefits of simple snacking!

Interested in attending our next cooking demonstration? Here’s information for the November event:

November Cooking Demonstration

Who: Presented by Ben Fatula, executive chef at Campbell House
What: Join us in making a healthy, flavorful two-course meal you can recreate at home! This cooking demonstration is free and open to patients, families and the public. RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email siddhi.shroff@uky.edu.
When: Monday, Nov. 13 from 3-5 p.m.
Where: Food Connection Kitchen, located on the second floor of The 90 on the UK campus. Parking is available in the William T. Young Library Visitors’ lot off of Hill Top Avenue.

If you’re looking for more healthy cooking tips, don’t miss the upcoming heart-healthy cooking demonstration hosted by the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute:

Lecture and cooking demonstration by cookbook author

Who: Jane Esselstyn, author of the heart-healthy cookbook, The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook
What: The event, which is hosted by the UK Women’s Heart Health Program, kicks off at 8 a.m. with an optional free yoga session. Esselstyn will take the stage for a brief lecture at 9 a.m., followed by a cooking demonstration at 10 a.m. and tastings at 11 a.m. Registration is $15 and spots are limited. To register, contact Karen Michul at Karen.Michul@uky.edu or call 859-218-0121. More information.
Saturday, Nov. 18
UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavilion A Auditorium. Free parking is available in the UK HealthCare parking garage at 110 Transcript Ave., directly across South Limestone from Chandler Hospital.

Next steps:

Spice up your Halloween with this healthy pumpkin turkey chili

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

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

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a pumpkin-inspired meal? This spicy pumpkin turkey chili is perfect for a chilly fall night and is loaded with healthy ingredients.

The pumpkin and bell pepper are great sources of beta-carotene, vitamin A and potassium. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision, and potassium is an essential mineral that aids in regulating blood pressure. Additionally, the turkey and black beans are great sources of protein, while black beans are also a great source of fiber.

For cancer patients going through treatment and experiencing taste changes, you can kick up the recipe’s flavor by adding a pinch more chili powder or even a pinch of cumin. Serve the chili with whole-grain bread or cornbread to balance out this hearty meal.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Adapted from AllRecipes


• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
• 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 pound ground turkey
• 2 (14.5 ounces) can diced tomatoes
• 1 (14.5 ounces) can black beans (no salt added)
• 2 cups pumpkin puree
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• Salt, to taste
• Pepper, to taste
• Cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
• Reduced-fat sour cream for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onion, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper and garlic until tender.
  3. Stir in the turkey, and cook until evenly brown. Drain and mix in tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin.
  4. Season with chili powder, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Next steps:

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.