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 5-9 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%?!

  • 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 (see below) or watch a short cooking video for step-by-step directions.
  • Ask if your VA has a Healthy Teaching Kitchen. My co-workers and I made this Mediterranean Chickpea Salad recently. Many Veterans who came to the event agreed the taste was delicious, the dish was easy to make, and that they would try it at home!

image of Mediterranean chickpea salad

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.


About the author: Michelle Hyman, MS, RD, CDN is a MOVE! Program registered dietitian based at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare system. In addition to face-to-face group and individual counseling, she enjoys using telephone and video technology to help Veterans reach their nutrition and health goals.

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Published on Jun. 7, 2016

Estimated reading time is 3 min.

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5 Comments

  1. Timothy Erwin Ramos June 19, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    I don’t get all this propaganda stating the VA is changing and how they listen to us. Well I’ve written countless people in the VA about issues I’m having with my VA and the illegal activity taking place here with no response. I have all the documentation, plus the statements made by the Patient Advocates that agree with me because they were lied to like I was. Look at all these VA sites. Someone find one besides OIG and a claim for damages, where there is a link to list issues happening at your VA as a patient there, where you can tell someone issues that are happening at get a response from them? You can’t find one. They will blow smoke up you, that’s about it. I have even have doctors letters from the VA writing me letters on my behalf, but has anyone looked at them? No! Don’t believe anything they say unless you have experienced it. Otherwise it’s junk. That’s the bottom line.

  2. Sabrenia West June 13, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Awesome information. Greatly appreciated. Knowledge is power. Educate that masses.

  3. mp412767@gmail.com June 11, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for the information that you provided. Every little bit of information helps.

  4. JANET STARNES June 10, 2016 at 10:58 am

    What about the wives of veterans with PTSD? Are there programs for us or classes for us to learn how to handle or deal with the effects of PTSD that our spouses have?

  5. Tessa Smith June 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    #4 is not a myth. How do you expect very senior & disabled vets to drive to the grocery & farmer’s markets? And lastly, most veterans don’t even know the meaning of a SNAP card until they find out that they’ve been paying for someone else to use them. The few veterans who do use SNAP cards deserve it unlike the millions who abuse them.

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