The food label can be your friend when navigating your diet during cancer treatment, and even eating to prevent cancer. For instance, when managing your weight (increased weight is a risk factor for developing cancer), calories are very important and watching added sugars can help keep calories down. During cancer treatment, you may be told to monitor your fiber intake if you develop constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, sometimes treatment causes anemia and it’s important to keep tabs on iron. Your dietitian can help you know what YOU specifically are looking to eat more or less of.
Regardless of your specific recommendations or goals, packaged foods contain data on the label that can serve as a resource for you to make informed decisions about what you eat. Here are three places to check:
This is the black and white rectangular box containing nutrient names and values. For instance, this is the place you would check for how many calories and how much protein, fiber, added sugars, iron (and more!) is in a serving of food you may choose to eat. Nutrients are listed in absolute amounts (e.g., grams, milligrams, IU in the case of vitamin D) and as a percentage of a daily amount. The latter is represented as %DV (daily value) which helps you determine how much a nutrient is present compared to the recommended amount to achieve or not exceed per day.
The ingredients statement is where to find all the ingredients that are present in any given food product.
There are various types of statements that you may see on the front of a package. It may be related to a health condition (e.g., “Development of cancer depends on many factors. Eating a diet high in grain products, fruits, and vegetables that contain dietary fiber may reduce your risk of some cancers.”) or simply that a food is “healthy” (yes, this is a word that you are only able to use if you have enough nutrition and not too much of nutrients that are over-consumed) or how a food related to a healthy overall diet (e.g., “Eat a variety of protein foods, including nuts and seeds.”).
Have diet and nutrition questions? Comment below and it may be chosen for a future blog!
By: Shelley Maniscalco – Registered Dietitian