Published on August 26, 2015

Six myths about eating healthy, Part 3Six myths about eating healthy, Part 3

It’s one thing to focus on eating better foods; it’s entirely another to give up some bad habits. Enter myths 5 and 6:

Myth 5: I like fast food too much to eat well.

Fast food does not have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Giving into a burger or burrito craving a few times a year will not kill you or sabotage your good intentions.

The key here is frequency, says Courtney Driscroll, clinical nutritionist at Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals. If if you find yourself at these establishments more frequently than a few times a year, making better choices is vital.

Fast food does not have to mean bad-for-you food. All the major fast-food chains offer lower-calorie, reduced-fat sandwiches and salads. But keep a close eye on the calorie, fat and salt content of dressings, toppings and other items claiming to be reduced-fat or reduced-calorie.

If you’re eating at a build-your-own sandwich or burrito place, opt for more vegetables and less of the high calorie, high fat sauces, dressing, sour cream or other toppings.

Another way to fit fast food into your healthful lifestyle is to combine it with not-so-quite fast food. Buy the burger or fried chicken at the drive-through window, but without the fries or coleslaw dripping with dressing.

Instead, drive straight home, bake a potato in the microwave and serve up some of those pre-cut vegetables you bought on your weekly trip to the supermarket. You will save fat, calories and money.

Ask yourself why you’re eating at fast food restaurants several times each week. Is it because you are eating on the run and don’t have time to go to restaurants with healthier options? This may just require a little extra planning the night before or in the morning to pack some healthy snacks or meals to bring with you.

There is nothing wrong with driving around with a cooler full of healthy food in you back seat!   Short on time, knowledge or desire to cook meals at home? Many grocery stores sell ready-made meals that just need to be heated up or can be eaten cold.

Stick with meals that include lean meats or seafood, lots of fruits and/or vegetables and whole grains, Driscoll says. Avoid meals with heavy sauces or a lot of cheese. Many grocery stores also have salad bars where you can build your own salad. You could even stop there on your way home and build a big salad from the salad bar to have with dinner at home.

Myth 6: I often overeat, which does not go hand-in-hand with a good diet.

This isn’t really a myth, Driscoll says. It’s a fact. Overeating does not go hand-in-hand with a good diet. But the occasional “splurge” in your calorie intake is only human.

It is certainly not a good idea to eat more than you are hungry for every time you sit down to a meal. But almost everyone has polished off a box of cookies in one sitting or stuffed themselves silly at a holiday dinner at least once in their lifetime. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it.

Eating too much once in a while is not a fatal character flaw. In fact, the more you forgive yourself the occasional binge, the easier it is to go back to your regular, healthful eating habits the next day.

The key is to work on gradually decreasing the amount of food that leaves you feeling satisfied.

The No. 1 behavioral change that can help with this is to slow down, Driscoll says. It takes your body 20 to 30 minutes to realize what you have eaten and if you’ve eaten enough. If you eat too fast, you will consume more calories than you need before you have a chance to realize it.

Put one serving on your plate and try to make that serving last 20 minutes. Set a timer the first few times so you can actually visualize the time you are spending on your meal.

After that initial 20 minutes, get up and leave the kitchen. Go for a walk, read a book, try to find something to distract you from the thought of eating more.

Serve yourself at the counter or stove and bring your plate to the table rather than placing serving platters on the table. You can even pack up the leftovers before you even sit down to eat so additional helpings will be even less tempting.

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.