Vegetables, fiber are powerful allies in 'food fight' for life

It's a food fight! But don't pick up that lemon cream pie.

Instead, pick up some broccoli, or a whole grain roll. And don't throw it, eat it.


The Maryland Division of the American Cancer Society is sponsoring the 4th annual Great American Food Fight tomorrow to promote awareness of foods and health practices that can help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

"We promote five preventive factors and five risk-reduction factors," says Natalie Webb, an oncological dietitian at Baltimore County General Hospital, who will be volunteering her services for the food fight.


The five preventive factors are adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet (foods in the cauliflower family, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale); adding foods from which the body manufactures vitamin A (dark green or deep yellow foods such as carrots, apricots, squash and broccoli); adding foods high in vitamin C (fresh fruits and vegetables, including grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers); adding more high-fiber foods (fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rice, and popcorn); and achieving your ideal body weight and keeping it.

The risk-reduction factors are cutting way back on fat in the diet; avoiding foods with nitrites, salt-cured or smoked foods (bacon and deli meats); using alcohol in moderation, avoiding unprotected exposure to sunlight, and quitting smoking.

"Particularly in the Baltimore area, there are high instances of esophageal cancer," Ms. Webb says. "It's linked to higher instances of alcohol intake and smoking."

Ms. Webb will be at Metro Food Mart in Perring Plaza Shopping PTC Center for the food fight, answering people's questions about cancer risk and diet. Chef Michael Baskette and students from the Baltimore International Culinary College will be demonstrating cooking according to cancer society guidelines.

"We don't just tell people, 'This is what you should do,' " Ms. Webb says. "We show them how to do it."

Here are some food tips from the American Cancer Society:

*When shopping: Don't try to change eating and shopping habits overnight. Try one new thing at a time. Read labels carefully; don't be lured by impulse items while shopping.

*When dining out: Choose restaurants that offer a variety of foods and choices. Read menus carefully and don't be afraid to ask if an item can be prepared in a different, health-promoting way (fish baked or broiled instead of fried or sauteed, for instance). Look for restaurants with salad bars; reduce portion sizes by sharing or taking some food home.


*When cooking at home: Don't fry meats; use other cooking methods (steaming, poaching, stir-frying or roasting) instead. Cook vegetables quickly and use as little liquid as possible. Use more seasonings, such as herbs and spices, garlic and citrus juices instead of butter or oil.

"It's unrealistic to think people are going to eliminate all risk factors," Ms. Webb says. "We like to promote variety and moderation."

A number of area corporations and health institutions are planning events for the day. Bethlehem Steel is offering employees a "lunch and learn" program called "Lowering Your Chances of Colon Cancer through Good Nutrition." The company is also showing nutrition videos throughout the plant this month and next. AAI Corp. will choose the winner of a monthlong Eating Smart dessert contest. The Baltimore VA Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital are offering educational sessions and displays, and Catonsville Community College, St. Agnes Hospital and C&P; Telephone will offer meals designed to meet ACS guidelines plus educational information.

Here are some of the food fight events that are open to the public:

*Cooking demonstrations following American Cancer Society guidelines by student chefs from Baltimore International Culinary College, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Metro Food Mart, 1955 E. Joppa Road. Free sampling and recipes provided.

*Demonstrations of nutritious snacks, drinks and other foods following ACS guidelines, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Williams-Sonoma, 4th floor, Towson Town Center. Free samples and recipes.


*Demonstrations of nutritious snacks, drinks and other foods following ACS guidelines, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Williams-Sonoma, 3rd floor, the Gallery at Harborplace, 200 E. Pratt St. Free samples and recipes.

*Specials that follow ACS guidelines will be offered at Harvey's of Greenspring Station, 2360 W. Joppa Road at Falls Road.