January 1st – the great day of planning good intentions.

  • Resolution 1: Agree to open the fridge door and undertake a full inspection of new and old materials left from the party season.
  • Resolution 2: Take stock – survey the potential threats. How many cakes, desserts, double cream, sausages, bacon and cheese lurks between the shelves?
  • Resolution 3: Assess the liquid contribution. How many bottles occupy the fridge door – including liquid candy and alcoholic tipples?
  • Resolution 4: Review the vegetation. Is there any edible vegetable matter remaining in that lower fridge drawer?
  • Resolution 5: Shut your eyes and imagine a healthy scene to help with a week of good intentions:
    • Lots of space to see what is actually in the fridge,
    • A rainbow of veggie and fruit colours to choose from,
    • Home prepared dishes – thick soups and beany casseroles,
    • Large cartons of low fat natural yoghurt, cottage cheese and milk,
    • Fresh fish, chicken, small portion of lean red meat,
    • Water bottles.

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Underlying our understanding of diet and cancer risk are two key principles – that of diet quantity and quality. Eat too few calories, and the temptation to fill up on whatever is in sight (usually snacks) will overtake good intentions. Eat too many calories, and risk weight gain. Excess body weight trumps over everything in (modifiable) cancer risk, except smoking (see ‘take action to be a healthy body weight’ for details).

In terms of diet quality, the 4th edition of the European Code Against Cancer recommends that people have a healthy diet to reduce their risk of cancer, and has synthesised this guidance into the following simple messages:

  • Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.
  • Limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat). Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt.

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We thought it might be fun to translate this guidance into what we put in our fridge, so during January, we have asked people who care about diet and cancer choices to reveal what lies in their worksite and personal fridges, to share with the world on social media (see @thescpn).

Look out for the weekend recipes for home-made savoury dishes that can be easily made and stored in the fridge. Our requests for #HealthyShelfie s has generated quite a lot of comments and is a simple reminder that if we buy energy dense foods and drinks, we are more likely to put them in our mouths…so make this year your year of the #HealthyShelfie!

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People often ask us about our own personal dietary choices and increasingly, what we recognise, is that planning daily exercise is as important as planning food choices (see the European Code Against Cancer) . The other personal realisation, is that you don’t need to eat every time you feel hungry and that mid-morning hunger pangs can actually be contained to lunchtime.

For everyday food we do have some key principles:

  • First and foremost, wholegrains!
    • Breakfast cereals in the form of unsweetened muesli or porridge (avoiding the refined, cardboard packaged, bright coloured, free gift type offerings),
    • Wholegrain breads/toast/rolls (usually home made), wholegrain crispbreads (for lunch and if hunger really does take over later in the day),
    • Wholegrain pasta, brown rice, barley,
    • Beans, pulses and lentils – usually with a quick bowl of soup after work and a lunchtime bean/lentil salad (home made) or dinner dish,
    • Nuts (delicious and confined to meals to avoid over consumption)
  • Veggies of all sorts – most days at work involve some home grown salad greens plus more international additions, cooked vegetables in all forms including potatoes.
  • Fruit – trying to keep seasonal options, from rhubarb in spring, followed by raspberries, strawberries and apples in summer and autumn, and my carefully frozen berry compote in winter. A daily banana plus anything seasonal (from any part of the world) is also welcome.
  • Low fat natural yogurt, skimmed milk, cottage cheese are evident on a daily basis.
  • Fish, chicken, eggs and red meat (once or twice a week).

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In our store cupboard olive oil, vinegars, spices are most evident. We buy sugar once a year (to make jam and chutney!) and salt for the purposes of gargling (and making chutney).

We rarely buy biscuits or bake cakes but will consume readily if available (no one is perfect!)

Alcoholic drinks (see the European Code Against Cancer guidance) are also a weak spot but January is the month for Dryathlon which is great for showing us how easy it is to live without drinking alcohol.

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Finally, the #HealthyShelfie can also be the sustainable shelfie – keeping waste to a minimum. Using left over ingredients or cooking for two days helps and if you worry about food safety…check out some basic guidance here.

Happy January!

– Annie S. Anderson & Bob Steele (SCPN Co-Directors)

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