As you have no doubt heard, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently announced the results of a meta-analysis based on over 800 studies documenting the association between a diet high in red and processed meats and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This does not mean a causal relationship was found, just that the preponderance of evidence suggests such a relationship exists.
It’s not like this is new news for us.
As Marion Nestle points out in her Food Politics Blog, ever since the 1959 diet book “Eat Well and Stay Well” by health experts Ancel and Margaret Keys, Americans have been directed to limit intake of processed and red meats to reduce the chance of heart disease. By the late 1990s, during our nation’s low fat craze, cancer experts again advised us to reduce consumption of red and processed meats as they believed the high-fat intake that comes from a diet high in these meats was a “probable cause” of various types of cancer.
If you’re anything like me, you’re a believer in the old adage “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” And there’s been a lot of smoke. The issue is not whether or not the data exists. It clearly it does and has for decades. The issue is…
Why haven’t we heeded it?
We are a red meat and burger-eating nation with an army of bacon-lovers. We have bacon flavored toothpicks, cupcakes, and band-aids in the shape of a slice. We even host a nationally televised Annual Hot Dog eating contest! It’s hard to give up the foods we love, especially when so much fanfare surrounds them. We raise our children in this hedonistic culture of food entertainment, and their food habits become an unintended by-product of this environment.
The research is not suggesting we cut “cold turkey” (although the high mortality rates of those living the vegan life demonstrate wisdom in that choice). Instead, the research urges us to approach these foods in moderation along with a balanced, nutritious diet.
What do you need to be concerned about for your family?
As parents, we have taken the universal oath of a lifetime of responsibility over our children. We want nothing more than for them to live long, happy, and healthy lives. If we can do that easily and in a way that minimizes resistance, then most of us would happily stand in line for the magic formula!
Your best bet is to feed your kids a balanced diet, including an increase in fruits and veggies and a decrease in processed and red meat. Eat a balanced diet with everything in moderation, cooking foods for your family yourself whenever possible, using lots of raw, pure ingredients. Save red and processed meats for special occasions, and teach your children why it’s important they do the same. In particular, aim for less than the following average intake of these foods:
- 4 oz daily of red meat (e.g., a quarter-pound burger)
- 2 oz daily of processed meat (e.g., 2 slices of ham or salami)
The recent WHO study concludes that a diet high in processed meat is a definitive cause and high in red meat is a probable cause of colorectal cancer. Eating more than the amounts listed above will increase you and your child’s colorectal cancer risk by 18%, and increase total lifetime risk from 5% to 6%.
To help you manage that risk, here are some ideas for strategies you can adopt today by making some small changes to your family’s diet:
- Use nutbutters or tuna/chicken/egg salads instead of deli meat for sandwiches
- Substitute ground beef with ground turkey or chicken in beef recipes
- Do not have too many cold cuts in the house (if they are there, they do get eaten!)
- Celebrate #meatlessmonday with your family every week
- Sub out fresh fruit instead of sausage and bacon for breakfast
- Save red and processed meats for a once a week treat, whenever possible
At WT Café, we are committed to providing your family with convenient, fresh, and healthy foods. In our local kitchens, recipes traditionally made with ground beef are made instead with ground turkey, a practice we employed since the day we founded our company in 2007. Entrees like Spaghetti & Meatballs, Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti & Meat Sauce, Tacos, Meat Lasagna, Chili, and Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes are all deliciously made with our house-seasoned ground turkey. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Feeding a generation of healthy, happy eaters is worth doing, and anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Thank you for the privilege of feeding your children!
Founder, WT Café
Dr. David L. Katz,
Founder, True Health Coalition
Dr. Marion Nestle
Food Politics Blog
NY TIMES Sunday Review
The War On Delicious