AUSTIN, Texas - (Aug. 7, 2014) - A group of cancer survivors huddled around a crate of rambutan recently in the Whole Foods Market downtown. Some had skeptical looks on their faces, while others didn't hesitate to dig in and try a bite of the palm-sized, burgundy-colored, multi-tenacled fruit.
"Eat the rainbow and try something new," Katie Albers, Whole Foods healthy eating specialist, told them. She explained that buying food in a wide variety of colors and not judging fruits and veggies by their appearance are the most helpful rules for making healthy choices in the produce section.
She continued with short lessons and key pieces of advice as she led the way through the market - stopping in the meat and sections and aisles filled with grain, pasta, frozen foods, cereal and bread.
The tour was the third class in a series of six free educational classes for cancer survivors and their families to learn about healthful nutrition and how it can help them survive cancer.
While a healthy diet does not ensure a person will stay cancer free, expanding research and recent evidence show it is a huge step in the right direction. With guidance from the Cancer Care Collaborative, patients and their families can be connected to as many resources as possible to get support, become educated and work towards a healthier life - hopefully one that is cancer free.
"This was a scheduled field trip in the series of classes," said Karah Ray, a registered dietitian with Seton's Cancer Care Collaborative. "It's an effort to make healthy nutrition choices realistic and more applicable to life. It's not just telling them to eat healthy - it's showing them how to actually do it."
The common theme among participants was learning to try things they wouldn't normally cook or eat. Many of them were turned on to foods and recipes they had never considered trying before.
"I eat beets now!" said one participant. "I never thought I would. I also learned a great recipe with kale, mangos and pumpkin seeds."
Participants also developed a better understanding of food package labels - learning what to look for - and what to avoid - when it comes to hidden ingredients in some foods.
"Getting the education and knowledge is a huge eye opener for me," said Viktoria Samuel, Seton Breast Care Center senior department assistant and cancer survivor. "I thought I knew, and I thought I was eating healthy, but I have learned so much.
"Now I know, but now I also have to start doing," said Samuel. "Like any cancer survivor, I don't want it to come back. So whatever I can do to make sure that doesn't happen, I'm going to do it."