Find­ing ‘ Your Health­i­est Healthy’

A 2014 breast can­cer di­ag­no­sis turned Danc­ing with the Stars and En­ter­tain­ment Tonight co­host Saman­tha Har­ris’ world up­side down— and gave her a new un­der­stand­ing of health

Better Nutrition - - TRENDWATCH - By Chris Mann

“When I was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer with no ge­netic link at 40, I thought that I was the most fit and health­i­est that I had ever been,” says Emmy- win­ning jour­nal­ist Saman­tha Har­ris, now 44. “To me, eat­ing healthily meant any­thing that was slapped with ‘ low fat, low sugar.’ ‘ Fat free’ to me meant health, so I thought I could eat a box of vanilla sand­wich cook­ies and I was be­ing healthy. But I wasn’t.”

All that changed once Har­ris be­gan re­search­ing the pos­si­ble cause of her can­cer, and her find­ings led her to a rad­i­cal di­etary over­haul. She com­pletely cut out chem­i­cally laden pro­cessed foods, in­clud­ing any­thing with high fruc­tose corn syrup, and cut way back on red meat and dairy, both of which have also been linked to a po­ten­tial in­creased risk of breast can­cer.

Har­ris’s trans­for­ma­tive story— and her well­ness tips— are found in her new book Your Health­i­est Healthy: 8 Easy Ways to Take Con­trol, Help Pre­vent and Fight Can­cer, and Live a Longer, Cleaner, Hap­pier Life. “What I came to learn was that the changes I wanted to make in my daily life for rid­ding my­self of tox­ins as much as pos­si­ble will also pos­i­tively af­fect preven­tion for other chronic dis­eases,” she says. “It was eye open­ing.”

How have your break­fasts evolved in your quest for cleaner eat­ing?

My first step was get­ting away from hav­ing dairy ev­ery morn­ing … my Greek yo­gurt or ce­real with milk. When I switched to hav­ing a smoothie ev­ery day, I started with whey pro­tein, and then I even­tu­ally moved to plant- based pro­tein. I use a wheat­grass pow­der, as well as su­per­foods green pow­der— in ad­di­tion to the kale and spinach I also add into the smooth­ies. There are a lot of other superfood boosts that can up your nu­tri­tional in­take. For our fam­ily, that means chia and flax seed in our smooth­ies.

Ac­tu­ally, I think of my smoothie as sort of a kitchen sink. I throw in ev­ery­thing that I might not want to eat on its own or might not have time to eat on its own. Like matcha green tea pow­der, which has great an­ti­cancer prop­er­ties. I’m not some­one who re­ally takes the time to just sip tea through the day. But a tea­spoon in a smoothie is nice and easy.

What lunch and din­ner food swaps do you rec­om­mend for be­gin­ners?

Num­ber one is fill­ing your plate at least half full ev­ery meal with veg­gies in­stead of an­i­mal pro­tein to help you re­fo­cus on what a plate should look like. I think we all were raised where the slab of meat was the star of the show, with maybe a lit­tle side of veg­gies and a lit­tle carb of some sort, whether it’s a potato or rice.

Make sure that the fat that’s in there is a healthy fat, and then if you are still work­ing with eat­ing an­i­mal pro­tein, try to min­i­mize the amount. We’re al­ways so im­pressed when we walk into a restau­rant and they hand us a 20 oz. steak—“Look at all that we get to eat!”— but re­ally it should be 2, 3, 4 oz. max. And then whit­tle from there and try to sub in plant- based pro­tein a cou­ple of times a week if you can. There are so many op­tions avail­able out there for your in­di­vid­u­al­ized plan.

That said, what do your sec­ond and third meals of the day look like?

I tran­si­tion at lunchtime to a re­ally large chopped salad that’s as col­or­ful as pos­si­ble, with healthy fats like av­o­cado. Some­times I’ll even throw some chia seeds on there, too, as well as lentils and gar­banzo beans. Ap­ple cider vine­gar is one of those things on my jour­ney to my health­i­est that I would like to start to in­te­grate more be­cause of all its great ben­e­fits. So I will sprin­kle it into my salad along with bal­samic vine­gar.

Din­ner is usu­ally where I tend to change it up the most. I might do a black bean salad or a lentil pasta. I still do eat some fish. I try to make sure if I’m giv­ing fish to the fam­ily that it’s wild Alaskan salmon. I do splurge, though, and have a weekly sushi meal with the fam­ily. I do that know­ing that it’s go­ing to be higher in mer­cury and other en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins. So part of this per­son­al­ized sign of your health­i­est healthy is fig­ur­ing out where you want to make those ex­cep­tions. I would eat sushi ev­ery day if I could. I don’t— but I do al­low my­self to do it once a week.

“‘ Fat free’ to me meant health, so I thought I could eat a box of vanilla sand­wich cook­ies and I was be­ing healthy. But I wasn’t,” says Har­ris.

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