Barbara Spalding's Story: Maintain a Healthy Weight with the New American Plate

Since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, registered dietitian Barbara Spalding has learned a lot about navigating the side effects of cancer treatment while eating a nutritious diet.

“Obviously as someone who works in nutrition, I had a pretty good understanding of the role of diet in health,” she says. “But the experience of going through cancer treatment gave me a whole new perspective.”

Spalding recalls being frustrated during her treatment because sometime she couldn’t stomach healthy foods.  “During treatment, I couldn’t eat vegetables,” she says. “They were just too hard. I stopped eating salad for a couple of months – which was tough.  I knew I had to get those nutrients, so I got creative. If I couldn’t handle vegetables in a salad, how about making a smoothie with spinach or chard in it?”

Since finishing treatment, Barbara has found that the Institute’s New American Plate model has helped her find practical dietary answers for herself and her clients.

“When people ask me about good portions and proportions, and when we talk about cancer preventive diets, I just tell them what their plate should look like: mostly vegetables, some whole grains, and a little protein. People like the simplicity.”

If you’re undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Spalding says, your body needs the energy from healthy foods to fight the cancer.  It used to be that everyone undergoing treatment lost weight because chemotherapy was so rough. Nausea, heartburn and loss of taste made it hard to eat, she says.  Today, chemo can be paired with other drugs and treatments – some of which make you hungrier, which can lead to overeating and unhealthy weight gain.

“You don’t want to under eat or overeat,” Spalding says. “You want to maintain a healthy weight. I think following the New American Plate is a great way to achieve that goal.”

AICR Impact

The American Institute for Cancer Research helps the public understand the relationship between lifestyle, nutrition and cancer risk. We work to prevent cancer through innovative research, community programs and impactful public health initiatives.


Posted in: Emotional/Mental Health, Medical/Science, Nutrition/Diet, Risks