Eating healthy is expensive. Healthy food doesn’t taste good. You won’t get enough calcium if you don’t consume dairy products.
Have you heard those statements before? Or maybe you’ve said those things to yourself. “Healthy eating” has a lot of myths attached to it. Let’s dispell these myths about healthy eating and celebrate everything that a healthy diet has to offer.
Myth 1: Eating Healthy Means Counting Calories
Improving your health, losing weight, or fulfilling whatever goals you have for eating a healthy diet does not mean you have to count calories. Instead of counting calories, you want to think of nutrients and colors. Fill your plate with foods that are nutrient-dense (more nutrients than calories) and color-rich. Looking at food this way will naturally help you make healthier choices without calorie-counting craziness.
Foods that are vibrant in natural color like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, bell peppers, etc., contain important vitamins and minerals. The more colors you can put on your plate, the greater variety of nutrients you will get.
Myth 2: You Have to Consume Dairy Products to Meet Your Daily Calcium Requirements
This is an old myth that won’t go away. Dairy has been known as the “food for strong bones” for quite some time. However, science is beginning to explore the opposite view. A study published in 2014 shows that milk consumption in was associated with a higher risk of fractures later in life for women and higher mortality for both sexes in individual cohorts.
Calcium doesn’t need to come from dairy. There are plenty of plant-based foods that contain calcium. For example, greens are high in calcium. Greens contain calcium and magnesium, which is required for calcium absorption. Dairy has little magnesium. So this myth is busted because it’s totally possible to get adequate amounts of calcium from non-dairy sources.
Myth 3: Healthy Food Is Bland with No Flavor
Fruits and vegetables are abundant in flavor and versatile in terms of preparation. Spices and fresh herbs is all you need to jazz up a plate of healthy food. Experiment with making different sauces like homemade pesto or tahini sauce. Pesto can be used as a spread on avocado toast, a sauce over zoodles, or poured over a baked sweet potato in place of butter. Homemade marinara sauce is delicious drizzled over a plate of roasted vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, and red potatoes.
The more herbs, spices, sauces, and dressings you can incorporate with your fruits and veggies, the greater a flavor journey you will enjoy.
Myth 4: Vegan Diets Will Result in Protein Deficiency
It is completely possible to get adequate amounts of protein on a minimal meat/dairy all the way to full vegan diet. Many people aren’t aware of how much protein there is in plant-based foods. Foods like lentils, chickpeas, almonds, quinoa, and steel-cut oats are all great sources of protein.
Proteins are built from amino acids—both essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids need to be consumed through food. Nonessential amino acids are the ones your body makes. In order to build complete proteins, you need to consume all nine essential amino acids through your daily diet. An example of a vegan meal with all the essential amino acids would be quinoa with lentils and vegetables.
Myth 5: Cooking Healthy Meals Is Time Consuming and Labor Intensive
Don’t overcomplicate cooking. Making healthy meals can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. If you are new to eating healthy, the oven should be your best friend. Roasting veggies is one of the easiest things you can do! Simply chop up your favorite vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, onion, zucchini, and broccoli into even sizes, then drizzle with avocado oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 375 degrees until they begin to brown on the edges.
Cooking staple foods like quinoa and rice can be done in under 30 minutes. If you don’t know how to easily cook meat, a slow cooker is the way to go. Simply add your cut of meat to it, pour on liquid (for example, salsa over chicken) and turn on low for six to eight hours. If you do this right before you go to bed, you’ll have yummy salsa chicken the next day to use in a salad, in tacos, or in a burrito bowl. Minimal effort required!
Myth 6: Buying Healthy Food Is Too Expensive
There are many ways to save money when buying healthy food. More often than not, healthy food is more budget-friendly. Packaged and processed foods include costs for packaging, labeling, and branding. When you buy fruits and vegetables, that extra cost is not there. To save money when purchasing healthy food, focus on these three things:
- Shop at local farmers markets for your produce: Farmers markets often have cheaper prices for fruits and vegetables. You are also supporting your local farms when shopping at a farmers market.
- Buy your dry goods in the bulk section: Buying bulk goods saves you money on the cost of packaging that most companies factor into their prices.
- Fill your plate with vegetables first: Vegetables are more cost effective than meat and fish, so if you fill your plate with veggies first, you will use smaller portions of the higher-priced ingredients.
Myth 7: You Must Follow the USDA MyPlate to Be Healthy
The USDA MyPlate was designed as a guideline, not a strict rule to follow. It’s also vague—listing only fruits, grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy with little explanation as to what those categories mean. In fact, since the USDA MyPlate was released, other health experts have contested what’s on that plate and noted that some key nutritional elements are missing. For example, there is no mention of fats or water on the USDA MyPlate. Healthy fats are an important part of a diet that supports heart health and normalizes cholesterol levels. Water is necessary to hydrate the body.
Focus on whole grains, fruits, lots of veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of water. But most importantly, since you are unique, eat the foods that serve your body best. Eating healthy is all about your individual needs—not what the government dictates.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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