Surviving Spring Holiday Meals

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American Cancer Society Encourages Healthy Choices at Spring Holiday Meals

New York, NY (April 22, 2011) - Holiday meals are all about tradition, and some of the most customary foods served during Easter and Passover can pack on the calories. Munching on too many marshmallow chicks, jellybeans and chocolate bunnies can add up to weight gain.

Good nutrition is an important way to help lower your cancer risk. A healthy diet that is low in fat, high in fiber, with lots of fruits and vegetables, has been shown to help reduce the probability of developing cancer. We found some foods this holiday that pack a pretty significant health punch.

Eggs
At least one item in the Easter basket - the colorful egg - can play a role in a healthy, cancer-protective diet. The Easter tradition of dyeing eggs can lead to dozens of beautiful hard-boiled eggs that may never find their way onto a meal or snack plate. Eggs get a bad wrap they truly don't deserve. Yes the yolk is where all the cholesterol is, but dozens of studies confirm that saturated and trans fats are the true heart disease triggers, not cholesterol - eggs are low in saturated fat and are trans fat free. Those Easter eggs add a powerful protein punch to any meal or snack at an affordable price, and are a great alternative to processed or red meats. Eggs provide some B vitamins, a few minerals and at about 70-80 calories each, they don't break the calorie bank either.

Potatoes
Spuds have earned a reputation as nothing more than a fattening waste of calories, but they're actually one of the healthiest foods around. Spuds are not the “bad boys” that everyone makes them out to be. It’s all the “stuff” we put on them that adds calories and fat. A medium baked potato with the skin left on (the most nutritious part!) has 120 calories, 40% RDA of vitamin C, has lots of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron as well. So keep it simple don’t add the butter, sour cream, cheese and salt.

Ham
The main staple for many homes at this time of year is ham. Ham has zero carbs and is a relativity healthy choice, especially lean cuts. Ham contains a high level of some of the essential B vitamins, such as B1, B12, and niacin. It is also rich in other nutrients, such as phosphorous, zinc, potassium, iron and magnesium, which are important to our daily diet. But you have to watch out because ham is high in sodium due to the curing process. It can contain half of the daily-recommended intake for sodium. When planning a menu that includes ham, you should add items that are low in sodium to try to keep your total sodium intake down.

Chocolate
The Easter Bunny will stash treats for millions of kids this Sunday, but some sweets will be more fattening than others. So for adults and kids seeking some guidance before polishing off a basket of goodies, remember moderation is the key. Not surprisingly, the bunny reigns as king when it comes to Easter calories. But the calorie count may still raise a few eyebrows: the average seven-ounce rabbit clocks an impressive 1,050 calories. Smaller bunnies are better--rabbits of the one-ounce variety only rack up 140 calories. But to ease your sweet tooth in a healthy way shop for chocolate that is 70% cacao brand. 

The Bottom Line
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy and includes lean protein such as poultry, fish, beans and nuts. Know the limits on fats, salts and sugars and get the most nutrition out of your calories. Spring is in the air, get active whether it’s putting on an Easter egg hunt for the kids or going for a long after dinner walk.

Additional Resources:
American Cancer Society Nutrition and Physical Activity Guide
Nutrition and Activity Quiz
Visit the Cooking Section of the American Cancer Society Bookstore

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About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.