Guidelines for healthy eating

Make healthy choices and reduce your cancer risk

Healthy eating is a first step in reducing your cancer risk. Poor eating habits increase your risk of cancer at many sites in the body. Poor eating habits can also contribute to weight gain, and being overweight or obese increases your risk of cancer. The good news is that a healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity and a healthy body weight can reduce cancer risk.

Here are some tips for choosing healthy recipes:

1. Use healthy ingredients

Fruit and vegetables can help to make recipes healthier options.

Fibre Rather than using refined white flour, try using wholemeal flour or buckwheat, spelt flours, as these include high fibre ingredients such as oats and grains.

Nuts and nut meals can be a source of healthier fats

Lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs and legumes ideally cooked using minimal fat or oil and in recipes that don’t contain too much fat or salt

Milk, yoghurt and cheese and their non-dairy alternatives can be used in healthy recipes. Healthier recipes should avoid using too much cheese as this can be high in saturated fat and salt


2. Ingredients to limit or avoid

×   Processed meats such as bacon, ham or prosciutto.

×   Fats, butter and cream Use small amounts of butter and cream, especially if it is combined with other high fat ingredients such as cheese or chocolate. Try replacing butter with margarine or vegetable oil, particularly if larger amounts are needed. Avoid recipes that require deep frying.

×   Salt Avoid using too much salt (1 teaspoon or more), and ingredients or sauces like soy sauce and fish sauce that contain high amounts of salt.

×   Sugar Avoid large quantities of sugar. Remember sugar comes from brown sugar, honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, icing sugar and jam. Many recipes can be easily modified to reduce the amount of sugar by a quarter to a half, and still taste good. Including fruit is a good way to add sweetness and remove added sugars.


3. Also consider:

Small serves Serve smaller portions of more indulgent food. But a small serve size doesn’t make a recipe that’s high in fat, sugar or salt, a ‘healthier’ recipe.

‘Clean’, ‘raw’, ‘natural’ and ‘paleo’ ingredients: The increasing interest in so-called ‘clean’ eating, ‘raw’ food, and paleo diets has resulted in the creation of ‘healthier’ treat alternatives and the use of ingredients such as rice malt and agave syrups, xylitol, coconut flour and oils, cacao powder, and sea salt flakes. Cancer Council does not endorse these diets, recipes and ingredients to be healthier alternatives as they still contribute to kilojoule, saturated fat, sugar and sodium intake. Recipes using these ingredients may not necessarily be considered healthier recipes, and should be balanced with indulgent recipes that contain more accessible baking ingredients such as sugar, butter and plain flour.

For more tips on eating for health, see Cancer Council's fact sheet on reducing cancer risk through a healthy diet.