A guide to healthy and mindful eating

An introduction into healthy and mindful eating by the expert nutritionists at Penny Brohn, one the UK's leading cancer support charities.
Penny Brohn Healthy and Mindful Evening

Eating well is important for anyone who’s affected by cancer or who wants to stay healthy. It can also help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases...

Healthy foods provide the nutrients that help our bodies work efficiently. Our immune system relies on a daily supply of a wide range of nutrients that natural foods contain, these are foods with as little taken out and as little added as possible.

Whatever cancer treatment you’re following, natural foods will support your body’s ability to recover, repair and ultimately heal. Good nutrition doesn’t interfere with cancer treatments and may even help to make your treatment more effective. It’s important to remember that there is no, one cancer specific diet that suits everyone. We are all individuals with different lifestyles, nutritional needs and tastes. What might suit one person may not necessarily suit another. The main aim of a healthy eating plan is to increase the amount of nutrients in your food. There are two important ways of achieving this:

1) The first thing to consider is what you eat. Expanding the variety of natural and wholesome food you eat on a daily basis will increase your nutrient intake.

2) The second factor is how you eat. Your body needs to be able to digest and absorb nutrients for them to do you good. Eating slowly and mindfully will have a positive effect on your digestion and will help you absorb and use the nutrients from your food.

But what is mindful eating?

The more you savour and chew your food using all of your senses, the more benefit you will get from it. This will support your resilience and recovery. It can also make eating more enjoyable!
Noticing how different foods affect you is also part of mindful eating. Knowing how your body reacts to different foods will help you decide which foods work for you. What works one day may not the next, so you may need to make changes and adapt meals to suit your body.

Eating the right foods in a mindful way helps nurture your mind and spirit as well as your body. You can lift your mood by eating healthy food that you enjoy. In fact the more enjoyment you get from eating healthy foods, the more goodness you will receive from them.

In need of nutritional advice?

When choosing your plant based foods, try to include a rainbow of colours each day. E.g green kale, red plums, orange carrots, yellow peppers. Different colours contain different beneficial nutrients, so it’s good to have as many colours as possible each day!

Always include a handful of good quality protein with each meal. Protein is important for cell repair and helps with balancing blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day. Good quality proteins include lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses and beans.

Include some healthy fat in your daily diet. Olive oil, avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds are rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Use wholegrains, such as wholegrain rice, wholegrain pasta and wholemeal bread as opposed to white, refined alternatives. This will increase both your nutrient and fibre intake. If you are a little worried about the time that eating mindfully might take out of your day, here are a few really simple tips that won’t take long at all:

• Take three deep breaths before picking up your knife and fork
• Take an appreciating look at the food on your plate before starting to eat; try visualising its origins – the earth, the sea, the tree
• Find a nice view, if you can, even if only through the window at trees or wildlife
• Clear the clutter off your table. Light a candle or lay a cloth that you love
• Choose to eat food you enjoy as this will provide more nourishment

If you would like more regular advice on eating well, you can access additional recipes and a nutrition blog, written by our therapist at the Penny Brohn: Janey Twigger.

If you are interested in attending a healthy eating day at the Penny Brohn, or you would like to access any of our other services, you can find out more here or call 0300 118 118.
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