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Cancer-Fighting Recipes Featuring Grains and Starchy Vegetables

Grains are a tremendous source of energy. And when you’re battling cancer, you need to harness whatever energy you can to get through your treatment and move toward recovery.

Whole grains are generally preferable to refined grains (like white pasta, white bread, and white rice) because whole grains contain more nutrients and fiber, but if you’re having bowel problems (like diarrhea or a bowel obstruction), eating refined grains that are lower in fiber is best until your gastrointestinal issues resolve.

Don’t worry — you’ll still get lots of nutrients and energy from grains, but you’ll give your innards a break. On the other hand, if you’re not having bowel problems or you’re constipated, focusing on high-fiber whole grains is ideal.

Confetti Couscous

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

5 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken stock

4 cups uncooked couscous

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

Kosher salt and white pepper to taste (optional)

1/4 cup red onion, peeled and diced fine

1/4 cup red bell pepper, peeled and diced fine

1/4 cup yellow squash, diced fine

1/4 cup zucchini, diced fine

Fresh lemon juice (optional)

  1. In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.

  2. In a casserole dish, place the couscous and spread it so that it evenly covers the bottom of the dish. Carefully pour the hot chicken stock into the casserole dish; there should be just enough stock to cover the couscous. Tightly cover the dish with plastic wrap and steam until all the stock is absorbed (approximately 15 minutes). Remove the plastic wrap and fluff with a fork.

  3. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, salt, and white pepper until well combined; set aside.

  4. In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the onion, bell pepper, squash, and zucchini in the remaining tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes or until tender. Then fold these vegetables into the couscous in the casserole dish and pour the dressing on top.

  5. Sprinkle with lemon juice, if desired.

Per serving: Calories 495 (From Fat 47); Fat 5g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 73mg; Carbohydrate 91g (Dietary Fiber 6g); Protein 17g.

If you don’t have the energy to sauté vegetables, buy the kind that come in steamer bags and then just mix those into the couscous. You can even use veggies that already have a sauce, if you don’t feel like mixing up your own.

Pasta Salad with Pecans and Grapes

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

12 ounces uncooked bow-tie (farfalle) pasta

5 tablespoons pecans, chopped

1 cup low-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup seedless green grapes, halved

1 cup seedless red grapes halved

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with nonstick aluminum foil. Evenly distribute the pecans on the baking sheet, and place them in the oven until they toast and just become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan while toasting if needed, to prevent burning. Remove from baking pan and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, add the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt and pepper (if desired), and mix until well combined.

  4. Add the pasta and toss to coat the noodles.

  5. Add the green and red grapes, celery, pecans, and mint, and gently fold the ingredients together. Refrigerate a few hours before serving.

Per serving: Calories 289 (From Fat 96); Fat 11g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 18mg; Sodium 200mg; Carbohydrate 42g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 8g.

You can use virtually any type of pasta to make this recipe. Other good shapes include rotini (spiral-shaped), penne, rigatoni, ziti, and elbow macaroni. It all depends on what type of texture you prefer. For instance, rotini tends to hold onto more ingredients than a flatter noodle like farfalle.

For additional nutrients, you can make this recipe with whole-grain pasta or boost your vegetable intake by looking for pastas that incorporate veggies, like Barilla’s Veggie Farfalle.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

4 medium russet potatoes

1-1/2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Paprika for sprinkling (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Thoroughly wash the potatoes, scrubbing the skins, and then prick each potato in several places with a fork.

  3. Bake potatoes directly on the center rack until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then carefully cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp into a bowl, taking care not to break the skins.

  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

  5. In a food processor or blender, process the cottage cheese, yogurt, cheddar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Then add this mixture to the bowl with the potato pulp and stir by hand until well combined.

  6. Divide the mixture among the potato shells, and place the shells on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly browned on top. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Per serving: Calories 187 (From Fat 20); Fat 2g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 7mg; Sodium 461mg; Carbohydrate 27g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 15g.

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