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Q&A: How to improve your diet and take Healthy Bites in 2013

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improve your diet and take Healthy Bites.JPGWant to jumpstart your healthy new year? MD Anderson's Healthy Bites challenge may be perfect for you.

"Healthy Bites helps adults take small steps toward adopting a healthier diet," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach. "Each month, we encourage participants to focus on one diet change that can potentially reduce their risk for cancer."

Want to learn more? Below, Herndon answers frequently-asked questions about nutrition, dieting and Healthy Bites.

What's the best diet for preventing cancer?

Truthfully, I don't recommend a specific diet. Instead, I tell people to focus on a lifestyle and mindset change.

My advice is to try and commit to making healthy food choices 90% of the time. If you can do this, then it's okay to indulge in less healthier options the rest of the time as long as you keep your servings small.

To help prevent cancer, eat more fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins. And, eat less animal-based foods, artificial sugars and processed foods.

What are the most impactful changes a person can make to his or her diet?
The first thing I always tell people is to cut out sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea and juices. The second good rule of thumb: if you can't reproduce it in your kitchen, don't eat it. Food you can't make is usually processed.

Lastly, eating out may be convenient, but most restaurant meals are high in calories. So, save dining-out for special occasions.

Why should people join the Healthy Bites challenge?

The biggest and most noticeable benefit is that you'll feel better and have more energy. And, it's the start of a new year, so it's a great time to think about your health and eating habits. Plus, you'll get tips and online tools, like food journals and recipes, to support you all year long.

Who should join the Healthy Bites challenge?

If you need to make a change in your diet but aren't sure where to start -- this is the program for you.

Anyone can participate -- whether you are trying to prevent cancer, have a strong family history of cancer or just want to make a healthy change in your diet.

Just remember, if you're taking any medications or have an existing health condition, make sure you consult your physician or dietitian before making any major changes to your diet.

What's this month's challenge?

In January, we're challenging participants to eat a healthy breakfast every day.

Why breakfast? Because eating the right breakfast helps your body get the nutrients it needs to fight off diseases like cancer. Plus, a healthy breakfast can help you make healthier choices all day long.

Healthy breakfast healthy bites.JPGSpeaking of breakfast, what's your go-to breakfast?
Plain Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of honey to sweeten it. It's a great carbohydrate-protein combo that tastes good and keeps you full. I'll eat a cup of yogurt and usually throw in some nuts for a plant-based fat.

How can someone join the Healthy Bites challenge?

It's easy. Just subscribe to MD Anderson's Focused on Health newsletter. Each month, you'll get a new challenge by email along with information you can use to help protect your body from cancer.

So, are you ready for a healthier you this year? Join Mary Ellen and MD Anderson today by signing up for the Healthy Bites challenge.

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