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Healthy dining options at MD Anderson

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salad bar CW.JPGBy Joey Tran, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases, according to the American Cancer Society. Making healthy food choices may also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your body in fighting shape if you do have cancer.

However, making healthy choices can be challenging when you're dining out. That's especially true if you're eating here at MD Anderson, when you already have many other things on your mind.

To make the best out of your healthy dining experience at MD Anderson, Ashley Smith, health and wellness manager of the department of Dining Services, has provided the following smart-eating strategies.

Plan ahead
Plan to visit dining locations that have healthy items you enjoy. Look for these healthy options at the following cafés:
  • Café Anderson, located at Main Building, floor 1, near the Café Corner, R1.2351: Power plate, Be Well plate, Cooking Light, sandwich and salad bars
  • Waterfall Café, located at Mays Clinic, floor 2, near the Tree Sculpture, ACB2.2402: Be Well plate, Cooking Light and salad bar 
  • Cool Beans Bakery and Café, located at Duncan Building, floor 2, near Elevator Q, CPB2.3050: Sandwich and salad bar
  • Lantern Café, located at Pickens Tower, floor 3, near Elevator N: Be Well plate, Cooking Light, sandwich and salad bars
Always evaluate how hungry you are and plan to eat accordingly. If you want a light lunch, consider an à la carte item or a small soup and side salad. If ordering a full meal, plan to save some leftovers for later.

Consider the menu

MD Anderson cafés offer plenty of items to help you achieve a balanced diet by including foods from all the different food groups: meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains. Consider the following options:
  • The Be Well plate from Café Anderson, Waterfall Café and Lantern Café offers a protein, starch and vegetable option for 400-600 calories per plate. Be Well options are sold as a plate and à la carte.
  • Cooking Light from Café Anderson, Waterfall Café and Lantern Café offers a wide variety of tastes and textures including lean sources of protein, whole grains and an array of vegetables. Cooking Light options are sold as a plate and à la carte.
  • The Power Plate from Café Anderson is loaded with nutrients and has minimal added fat, sodium or sugar. The Power Plate is sold as a meal; à la carte is not currently available.
  • For sandwiches, choose whole wheat bread or wraps and top with vegetables like lettuce, tomato and onion. Select lean deli meats over mayo-based chicken and tuna salads, and add low-calorie condiments like mustard in place of mayo or other creamy dressings. 
  • For a healthy salad, include dark leafy greens and top with a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables. Add lean proteins like grilled chicken, flaked tuna, tofu or beans and healthy fats like avocadoes, nuts, seeds or olive oil based salad dressing; however, always keep your portion sizes in check. Any salad toppings that aren't vegetables - including cheese, croutons, dried cranberries and creamy salad dressings - can quickly add-on extra calories. Instead, aim for at least 2/3 of your salad to be vegetables.
Choose foods carefully
  • Choose à la carte options that create healthy meal combinations. Instead of macaroni and cheese or French fries, choose healthier sides like steamed vegetables, a small salad with low-fat dressing or fresh fruit.
  • When ordering at MD Anderson, review the menu tags, which include nutrition facts and Just4U nutrition symbols to help you make healthy choices. Just4U symbols show which foods are low fat, calories, sodium and carbohydrates, as well as those that are vegetarian and/or prepared with healthier cooking methods. Ask for a guide to help clarify which nutrition symbols are right "Just4U."
  • Areas in the café like the sandwich and salad bars also have nutrition information posted.  To make the healthiest selections, review this nutrition information closely before building your sandwich or salad.
  • When choosing your beverage, plain water is the healthiest option. If you insist on something else, opt for drinks like low-sugar teas, flavored waters, and low-fat or skim milk that all have less than 100 calories per serving.
Remember, making healthy choices is a choice. By choosing from our restaurants' healthy offerings, you can enjoy a high-quality meal at MD Anderson without abandoning healthy eating.

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