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Easy Ideas to Makeover Lunch

Focused on Health - April 7, 2010

By Lora Shea

You can stick to a healthy diet. Making healthy food choices start when kids are young and should continue to adulthood.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains to fight cancer and other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. To make matters worse, we tend to eat too much salt, saturated fat and sugar.

But, eating healthy food is not impossible. You just need to make better choices, one meal at a time. Why not start with lunch?muffins

Understanding the science behind the foods you eat will help kick-start new habits that will last a lifetime. Our five-day cancer prevention meal plan will help you rethink your family’s midday meal.

Monday’s Menu:

  • Flaxseed muffin with one tablespoon of almond butter and one teaspoon of honey
  • Half-cup of plain yogurt with a half-cup of strawberries

Science behind the food:

Flaxseed is a rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may protect your body from colon, breast, skin, prostate and lung cancers.

Berries contain Vitamin C, fiber and powerful plant compounds that may have protective effects against cancer. Strawberries are particularly good at slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Tuesday’s Menu:

  • One whole-grain tortilla filled with:
    • One ounce of reduced-fat, shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    • One-third cup of black beans
    • Half-cup of diced grape tomatoes
  • Medium-sized orange

Science behind the food:

Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and hundreds of natural plant compounds. They protect cells from the kind of damage that can lead to cancer.

The bright red color of tomatoes comes from an important plant compound called lycopene, which may lower a man’s risk of prostate cancer. Substances found in tomatoes also may slow the growth of breast, lung and endometrial cancer cells.

Wednesday’s Menu:edamame

  • Half-cup of cold-sesame noodles
  • Half-cup of cucumber sticks
  • Half-cup of edamame (soybeans in the pod) or one ounce tofu
  • Cup of grapes

Science behind the food:

Soybeans are a type of bean that are believed to have anti-cancer effects. Soy may have particular benefits for decreasing the risks of hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.

Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, are a strong source of the antioxidant resveratrol. Resveratrol reduces inflammation and protects cells from damage that could lead to cancer.

Thursday’s Menu:

  • One cup of shrimp salad with white beans, broccoli and toasted garlic
  • Half-cup of cantaloupe

Science behind the food:

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, are believed to reduce cancer risks. Broccoli protects best against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and stomach. Broccoli also is a great, non-dairy source of calcium.

 Garlic actually is a vegetable in the same family as onions, scallions, leeks and chives.  This family of vegetables may protect the body from stomach and colorectal cancers.

Friday’s Menu:chick peas

  • One cup of spinach or romaine lettuce with:
    • Quarter-cup chickpeas
    • Quarter-cup shredded carrots
    • Two tablespoons reduced-fat salad dressing
  • Four whole-grain crackers

Science behind the food:

Dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach or romaine lettuce, give your body fiber and folate. They also contain a special group of plant compounds called carotenoids, which give plants their color. Foods containing:

  • Fiber may lower colorectal cancer risks
  • Folate may lower pancreatic cancer risks
  • Carotenoids may lower risks for cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx

Beans are full of cancer-fighting compounds. These compounds may protect the body from cancer by slowing the growth of tumors and preventing cancer cells from spreading. Beans also are a great source of protein and fiber.

To learn more about the newest research on cancer-fighting foods, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center