Hospital  >  Care Programs  >  Odette Cancer Program  >  Prevention and detection  >  Your Nutrition Connection  >  Food, nutrition & physical activity recommendations  >  Overview  >  3. Limit foods and drinks that promote weight gain

3. Limit foods and drinks that promote weight gain

An image of a fruit salad.

A closer look at the recommendations for reducing your overall cancer risk

  • Eat fewer energy-dense foods
  • Avoid sugary drinks, such as soft drinks/pop, fruit drinks
  • Eat less fast food

What are energy-dense foods?

Energy-dense foods are high in calories and fat and low in fibre and water. Processed foods, such as chips, cookies, fried chicken, muffins and fast foods tend to be high in energy density. These foods contain more calories per gram compared to plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes. Foods that contain more than 225 calories per 100 grams (or 31/2 ounces) are called high in energy density.

For example:

  • 1/2 cup of milk chocolate (100 grams or 31/2 ounces) = 520 calories
  • 1 cup of apple slices (100 grams or 31/2 ounces) = 50 calories
  • 100 grams of milk chocolate provides 10 times more calories than 100 grams of apple; therefore milk chocolate is a more energy-dense food than apples.

Note: Energy-dense foods such as nuts, seeds and some vegetable oils provide valuable nutrients but are high in fat. Eat these foods in moderation.

A tall glass of sparkling water with ice cubes and slices of lime and lemon, which fit perfectly into the glass. Looks refreshing, and somewhat Martha Stewart. A sprig of mint sits on top, and there's a piece of grapefruit in the background.

What are sugary drinks?

Sugary drinks are soft drinks and flavoured drinks such as fruit punches or fruit cocktails, iced tea, sports and energy drinks, milkshakes, smoothies, and sweetened fruit drinks or juices. Many specialty drinks, such as iced cappuccino and flavoured coffee and tea beverages, and some alcoholic drinks, such as wine coolers and mixed drinks, are high in sugar content. Check the ingredient list on the food label to see if sugar has been added.

Why limit energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks?

Avoiding foods that are high in fat, calories, and added sugar will help you keep and maintain your healthy body weight, which will reduce your cancer risk.

How can you eat fewer energy-dense foods?

  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. These low energy-dense foods are high in water and fibre and help you feel full quickly
  • Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare serving sizes and select foods that are lower in calories and fat per serving
  • When eating out, check the menu for healthier choices or ask for nutrition information to help you choose a lower calorie meal
  • Choose lower fat dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, sour cream), dressings, sauces (salad dressing, mayonnaise)
  • Choose lower fat packaged foods (crackers, muffins)
  • Choose leaner meats, such as chicken (skinless) and fish
  • Trim visible fat from red meats

How can you avoid sugary drinks?

  • Drink water instead-add lime or lemon slices for flavour
  • Try your coffee without added syrups, sugar, whipped cream or high-fat milk
  • Drink tea or homemade ice teas
  • Try carbonated water with fruit juice