In the age of having information at our fingertips, diet recommendations are widespread, and at times, conflicting. Low-fat, low-carb, vegan, grain-free and high-fat are just a few of the common diet trends that claim to be the best for weight loss or disease prevention. However, many of these claims are not supported by long-term evidence or repeated study results.
The Continuous Update Project Update Report 2018 by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (CUP Report) identified several factors with strong evidence of impact on our risk of weight gain, overweight and obesity, including limiting sugar-sweetened drinks and fast foods and increasing foods containing fiber. When planning diet and lifestyle changes for weight loss after breast cancer, increasing fiber intake can help with weight management and may help prevent recurrence.
Eating more fiber can have health benefits on heart disease, digestion, and blood sugar control. According to the CUP Report, fiber can help with weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness, slowing the rate of digestion, and by providing low energy density – meaning, less calories in a larger portion size compared to a low-fiber food item. Eating less calories while eating more food is a recipe for staying full and losing weight.
When the word “fiber” comes to mind, people might think “cardboard,” when in reality we should think “plant power.” Foods high in fiber include colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Along with fiber, plant-based diets also provide numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals – the compounds in food that can protect our cells from damage. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. Aim to “eat the rainbow” of fruits and vegetables to provide a wide variety of phytochemicals.
Examples of Phytochemicals
- Carotenoids found in red, orange and green vegetables
- Flavonoids found in coffee, tea, soybeans, citrus and onions
- Glucosinolates found in broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
- Polyphenols found in grapes, berries, whole grains, and peanuts
To increase fruit, vegetable and fiber intake, check out the American Institute for Cancer Research’s New American Plate model and make it a goal to fill 2/3 of your plate with plant-based foods and 1/3 with animal products.
Try these simple swaps to help reach your weight loss goals:
- Try spaghetti squash or zucchini "noodles" instead of pasta
- Prepare mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes
- Top salads with beans, sliced almonds, and fruit such as strawberries
- Replace half the ground meat with black beans in tacos
- Replace white rice with brown or wild rice
- Toss chopped vegetables into scrambled eggs (try spinach, broccoli, peppers and asparagus
- Stir in flax seed or chia seed into oatmeal or yogurt
- Add beans to soups, casseroles and stir-fry
- Top yogurt with blueberries or raspberries
- Choose a crunchy apple with walnuts and pumpkin seeds for an afternoon snack
- Keep frozen vegetables on hand for a quick side dish when short on time
- Try ancient grains (quinoa, farro, bulgur, barley, etc.) mixed with roasted vegetables
- Swap Saltine crackers for whole-grain Triscuit crackers
- Instead of a sandwich and chips, try a sandwich with raw veggies and hummus
For personalized weight loss recommendations, ask your doctor for a referral to see a registered dietitian.
- World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Diet, nutrition, and physical activity: Energy balance and body fatness. Available at dietandcancerreport.org
- Timothy J Key, Balkwill Angela, Kathryn E Bradbury, Gillian K Reeves, Ai Seon Kuan, Rachel F Simpson, Jane Green and Valerie Beral, Foods, macronutrients and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: a large UK cohort, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1093/ije/dyy238, (2018).
- American Institute for Cancer Research: New American Plate Model, Phytochemicals
 World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Diet, nutrition, and physical activity: Energy balance and body fatness. Available at dietandcancerreport.org
 Timothy J Key, Balkwill Angela, Kathryn E Bradbury, Gillian K Reeves, Ai Seon Kuan, Rachel F Simpson, Jane Green and Valerie Beral, Foods, macronutrients and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: a large UK cohort, International Journal of Epidemiology, 10.1093/ije/dyy238, (2018).