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Published on August 26, 2015

Six myths about eating healthy, Part 1Six myths about eating healthy, Part 1

Many people wonder how to cook and eat healthier foods without spending lots of time and money. Chances are you have a good understanding of the basic principles of health and nutrition. But given today’s fast-paced lifestyle, the real challenge is practicing what you already know.

Occasionally, we find ourselves resorting to “quick fixes,” which gradually can become bad eating habits. Then we build up reasons, or “myths” about why we cannot eat better. We asked Courtney Driscoll, clinical nutrition manager for Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals to bust some common myths about why we think we can’t eat better.

Myth 1: Eating nutritiously is too expensive 

Many people believe that fruits, vegetables, fish and the other components of a healthy diet cost more than they currently spend on food.

Consider what happened when researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Mary Imogene Bassett Research Institute gave nearly 300 people with high cholesterol how-to home videos for cutting fat from their diets.

After nine months, the participants who had lowered their blood cholesterol the most had also lopped an average of $1.10 each day off their food bills. That comes to more than $400 a year (or $1,600 for a heart-healthy family of four).

It makes perfect sense when you put pencil to paper. A bowl of cereal with milk costs a lot less than buying a donut or muffin on the way to work. And a mid-afternoon apple or banana is still cheaper than a candy bar.

“Also, healthier foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber – such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain products – fill us up quicker and keep us full longer,” Driscoll says. “So we end up eating less and spending less in the long run.”

Myth 2: It’s too hard to eat the recommended 5-9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables

Most Americans do not eat the recommended daily amounts of produce. But having a piece of fruit is not the only way to slip more produce into your diet, even though people assume that is what they should do. What about adding a couple of slices of tomato and a lettuce leaf to a tuna sandwich? Or mixing a cup of finely shredded carrots into a pot of spaghetti sauce?

“Think about each time you eat – both meals and snacks – and try to include fruit and/or vegetables into each,” Driscoll advises.

“For breakfast, mix a bunch of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes into your omelet or scrambled eggs. Or place vegetables or fruit with Greek yogurt and ice into the blender for a delicious smoothie to drink on the go.”

(She recommends this list of a few easy smoothies that incorporate both fruit and vegetables.)

You can also add fruits to both hot and cold cereals, yogurt, pancakes and waffles, Driscoll says.

“Yogurt with fruit isn’t just for breakfast,” she notes. “A large entrée-sized salad with several different vegetables would count toward at least half of the recommended servings each day, if not more.  Add a lean protein such as grilled chicken, tuna, tofu or beans for a well-balanced meal.”

For dinner, Driscoll suggests preparing two vegetable sides instead of one vegetable and one starch.  Or serve a salad and a cooked vegetable. Load up soups and stews with lots of extra vegetables.

Puree fruits and berries to use as a sauce on grilled chicken or fish.  Add chopped vegetable such as broccoli, squash, carrots and tomatoes to casseroles and pasta dishes.

(Check out one of Driscoll’s favorite vegetable lasagna recipes.)

And then there’s snacking. Driscoll likes to bring a bag of strawberries, grapes, cherries or sliced carrots, peppers and cucumber to work with her.  “When you start feeling hungry between meals, snack on these to help curb your appetite until the next meal and get in another serving for the day,” she says.

Rather have something crunchy and salty for a snack?  Driscoll suggests this recipe for homemade kale chips!

“Challenge yourself, your family and your kids to choose one new fruit or vegetable per week that you have never tried,” she says.  “Find recipes on how to cook and eat these new items.  You never know, you could have a new favorite food out there that you don’t even know about!”

Contributing: EBSCO Information Services

Courtney DriscollCourtney is a registered dietitian who was born right here at Cape Cod Hospital and was raised here on Cape Cod.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut and her Masters in Healthcare Management from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Courtney has been the Clinical Nutrition Manager for Cape Cod Healthcare for the past four years.  Prior to that she was the Clinical Dietitian for Falmouth Hospital.  Courtney currently lives in South Yarmouth with her husband and son.