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Powerful Choices Podcast: Tips for a Healthier Birthday

September 2009

Colleen: Hello and welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Powerful Choices Podcast series, where you'll get the information you need to make everyday choices that can help you be well and stay well. I’m Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society’s director of nutrition and physical activity. Thanks so much for joining us.

I'm here today with Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, to talk about birthdays. Yup, that’s right, birthdays. To most people, birthdays are just a reminder that they’re getting older. But at the American Cancer Society, “Happy Birthday” is a victory song, because a world with less cancer means a world with more birthdays.

Len: That’s right, Colleen, more than 11 million Americans who have survived cancer—and countless others who have avoided it—will celebrate a birthday this year. And in an effort to create a world with more birthdays, we have a few ideas for how you can make your special day -- and that of your loved ones -- a little healthier.

Colleen: That’s why the American Cancer Society teamed up with the Culinary Institute of America to create a healthier take on the birthday cake. We challenged the Institute's baking and pastry students to create original recipes for a better-for-you birthday cake. We then invited Chef Duff Goldman, star of the Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" TV show, to judge the work of 5 finalists.

Alexandra Mudry came up with the winning recipe, a healthier version of a red velvet cake that delivers plenty of taste but with fewer calories and less sugar and fat than traditional recipes. In addition to cutting back on sugar, eggs, oil and butter, Mudry made inventive additions - including roasted beets, dried cherries, applesauce, and whole wheat and quinoa flours - to add more nutrients than the average cake would have. There's no food coloring in this cake, which means that it may be less red than you expect. But because this cake has less fat and sugar, it is a somewhat healthier dessert that tastes great and still has the fun, celebratory feel of a traditional birthday cake. And the best part is that you can make it at home, as we’ve done with this cake. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious.

Len: So with this cake you can still satisfy your sweet tooth – but also cut down on some of the stuff that’s not so good for you.

Because what you eat and drink, how active you are, and other lifestyle behaviors like whether you smoke . . . all can affect your risk for cancer. We’re talking about the choices you make every day, even on special days, like your birthday.

You can even give a gift with health and wellness in mind. Colleen, I know you have some ideas to share.

Colleen: For cooks or want-to-be cooks, put together a gift basket of “healthy” cooking tools, such as an apple corer, a zester, a lemon/lime juicer, a garlic crusher, or a grater. Another great idea: package flavored oils and vinegars in a pretty, large bowl perfect for salads.

Foodies will love a basket of cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit, or maybe a cooking class gift certificate or a subscription to a healthy cooking magazine.

If your birthday girl or boy is trying to be more active, a step counter or portable music player is a good option. Or consider a gift certificate to a wellness retreat, a workout DVD, or a class, such as a tennis or golf lesson.

Slide: Healthy Gift Ideas for Food-lovers

  • Cooking tools like juicers, graters, or apple corers
  • Flavored oils and vinegars with a large salad bowl
  • Baskets of cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit
  • Gift certificate to a cooking class
  • Subscription to a healthy cooking magazine

Slide: Active Gift Ideas:

  • Step counter
  • Portable music player
  • Workout DVD
  • Sports class or lesson

Len: Those are great ideas, Colleen. For more ideas to make your birthday healthier and to make the American Cancer Society the official sponsor of your birthday, visit us online at morebirthdays.com. To learn more about ways you can reduce you risk of cancer, go to cancer.org or call us at 1-800-227-2345. From all of us here at the American Cancer Society, thanks for watching.