Eating more produce is easier said than done

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By VAntage Point

We all know we should be eating more produce, but it’s easier said than done. It’s estimated that only 10 percent of us consume adequate amounts. As an outpatient registered dietitian, I hear many reasons why veterans I work with are not able to reach the recommended five-nine servings each day. Some of these reasons are myths that we hear on television or from well-meaning friends and family. In honor of National Fruit and Vegetable Month this June, let’s debunk some of these myths.

Myth #1: I don’t need fruits and vegetables because I take a multivitamin

Multivitamins can be a great back-up plan for veterans who have poor appetites or don’t eat a good variety of foods in their diet. However, many of us could get these important nutrients from food. Produce provides a lot more than just vitamins and minerals. Specifically, it provides antioxidants (that play a role in heart health and cancer prevention), plus dietary fiber which is satiating and promotes healthy bowels.

Myth #2: Canned vegetables and fruits have no nutritional value

While canned veggies are higher in sodium than fresh, and canned fruit in heavy syrup contains a lot of sugar, don’t discount canned just yet. If you are not able to get to a grocery store often, are on a fixed food budget, or do not enjoy cooking, canned is a good option. Canned items are inexpensive, have a long shelf life and don’t require cooking. Did you know that draining and rinsing canned veggies and beans with water lowers the sodium content by about 40 percent.

*Vegetable tip: Look for cans that say “no salt added”.

*Fruit tip: Look for canned fruit in “light syrup” or “no sugar” added.

Myth #3: Vegetables don’t taste good

Forget boring, steamed vegetables and excite your taste buds with these tips:

*Use fresh or dried spices and herbs: Chili powder, garlic, fresh onions, and basil flakes are just a few of my favorites. The flavor of many dried spices intensifies when heated.

*Try grilling or roasting vegetables, which brings out the natural flavor better than steaming.

*Use your favorite sauce or dip, such as salsa, guacamole, tomato sauce, hummus or salad dressing.

*Try a new recipe or watch a short cooking video for step-by-step directions.

*Ask if your VA has a healthy teaching kitchen.

Myth #4: I can’t afford fruits and vegetables

*Check out the sales in the canned and frozen aisle for fruits and vegetables.

*If organic produce is too expensive, buy non organic.

*Try buying in season and check the circular for sales — think zucchini, watermelon, corn and tomatoes in the summer months.

*Apples, bananas, carrots, potatoes and broccoli are usually affordable year round.

*Find a local farmer’s market — you may be able to bargain the price down and many are now accepting “SNAP” (food stamp) benefits.

Researchers of these studies found that people who ate canned fruits and vegetables had overall healthier diets and consumed similar amounts of sodium than those who did not eat canned produce. n