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October 29, 2007

Clicking your way to better health: New U-M Web site makes eating better easier

ANN ARBOR, MI – Adding more fruits and vegetables to your next meal is now easy thanks to a new Web site from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center that offers healthful and delicious recipes searchable by the ingredients you like.

FruitsThe individually tailored Web site, Cancer Center Recipes Just for You, features delicious recipes developed by Graham Kerr, TV’s “Galloping Gourmet” and leading advocate for healthy eating. The Web site also contains several hundred video and audio clips of Kerr preparing the dishes.

“My life’s work is now entirely focused upon finding effective culinary solutions for those caught up in the chaos of our times,” says Kerr, who will present a public lecture at the U-M Cancer Center on Oct. 29.

“We hope the site helps people find more appealing ways to prepare healthy foods that they already know they like,” says Ed Saunders, deputy director of the Center for Health Communications at the U-M Cancer Center. Saunders developed the Web site.

To begin, site-users rate fruits and vegetables on a scale from “will not eat” to “like a lot.” The database then takes these preferences and generates recipes for dishes including only those preferred choices and not others. Additional search options are also available that address dietary needs such as dairy-free, low-fat and vegan so users can find menu choices that truly fit their needs.

“Whether you’re looking for options packed with protein to help ward off the side effects of cancer treatment or just hoping to introduce more fruits and vegetables into your diet, the Web site will help you find what you’re looking for,” says Cancer Center dietitian Joan Daniels.

The recipe program was originally developed as part of a research study called “MENU Choices” that examined whether access to an interactive Web site with recipes tailored to individual food preferences motivated people to eat more healthfully. The results of the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and recently completed at health care institutions nationwide, will be released soon.

With such a valuable tool already existing, Cancer Center staff did not want to see it go to waste. They decided to make the site public with a little re-organization.

New features are aimed at making the site easier to use and include a free registration option, which provides users with a log-in that will recall menu preferences, and a recipe box to save preferred recipes. No information will be collected for research purposes, Saunders says.

The site, which is entirely free, will see continuing improvements. In the future, Cancer Center dieticians hope to add additional recipes for people with eating issues not currently addressed on the site, such as nausea, various dietary restrictions and food allergies.

“We hope the Web site will help to pique curiosity about new fruits and vegetables, or at least help you find ways to eat more of what you like,” Saunders says.

Cancer Center Recipes Just for You is at

The Cancer Center will present a grand rounds seminar from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, at Ford Auditorium, University Hospital, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor. The event, which will feature Graham Kerr and Vic Strecher, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Health Communications Research. The title of the program is Tailored Health Communications: Predictive, Personalized, Preemptive and Participatory.

Written by Milli Dick



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