Saturday, September 29, 2012

Break It Down Now!

Let's go back and touch base with our favorite Nutrition Facts Label.

Scooting past the calories listed, you'll see a whole boat load of information.  Now, you may be very familiar with these nutrients, vitamins, and minerals listed, however; many people find this list a whirlwind of a mess.
Introducing:  Percent Daily Value

Overall, we want to keep Saturated and Trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium intakes low.  On the other hand, we want to consume foods high in fiber, vitamins A & C, calcium, and iron.  Some of us may look at the protein or the total carbohydrates listed (especially diabetics).  If you're unsure of your recommended intake levels of specific nutrients (for instance, if 5g of fat per serving is high or low), using the percent daily value (% Daily Value or %DV) may be helpful.  The percent daily value is either listed directly after the nutrient or towards the right-hand side of the Nutrition Facts panel.  
The overall, simplified hint states that if the percent daily value is 5% or below, then that food contains a LOW amount of that nutrient per serving.  On the other hand, if the % daily value is 20% or above, then the food is a HIGH source of that nutrient per serving.  This rule applies to all nutrients.  

Examples anyone?

This package lists dietary fiber as 4% of the percent daily value, indicating that the food is low in fiber per serving.  This tells us that if we're looking for a food high in fiber, this item is not our best choice.  (We would want to choose a food with at least 20% daily value for dietary fiber.)

In this example, the total fat listed is 2.5g, which provides 4% of the percent daily value.  Being that this %DV is less than 5%, this food is low in total fat per serving, which may be what you're looking for. 

What is the Percent Daily Value exactly?

The percent daily value is a percentage of a nutrient in a food and its comparison to how much you need all day.  An average person's diet is used to determine this value: a 2000 calorie diet with about 65g total fat (22g saturated fat maximum).  Knowing that some of us need more or less than this average diet, our own percent daily values can vary, but as a general indicator about a food and its nutrients, the 5%/20% rule can be quick and easy!

Thanks for pulling up a seat.  See you next time at the table!  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tonight's Side Dish: Curly Kale Slaw

Looking for a quick, easy, low-cost, and nutritious side dish for dinner?  Tired of your same old salad and looking to use kale (a SUPER superfood) in a different way?  I knew you were!

Try Curly Kale Slaw tonight:

Kale is loaded with vitamins A and C, which help to keep your skin and eyes healthy.  Kale is a superfood because its loaded with antioxidants that may help prevent against certain types of cancers.  At only 60 calories per 1 cup serving, you can't go wrong with this nutrient-packed side dish.

Curly Kale Slaw
Cost: $3.44 per recipe
$0.34 per serving

8 large kale leaves, washed
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice from half of a lemon)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced (or pressed in a garlic press)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)


1. Hold each kale stem with one hand.  With your other hand, gently pull down along the kale stem and remove the kale leaves.  Discard stems.

2. Stack and gather the leaves on a cutting board.  Slice the kale into small strips.
3. Mix the lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt in a large bowl.  Add kale and onions, and toss.
4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and walnuts, if using.

Have the kids help in the kitchen!  They can help to strip the kale leaves off of the stems, or toss the  slaw when needed.  Tried and tested with children myself, you'll be surprised how much they love this side dish, and having them help to prepare it will entice them even more and make them feel more a part of their meal.

PS- This dish keeps very well when covered and refrigerated.  Feel free to make ahead of time for cookouts, parties, dinners, and luncheons to serve as a cool side dish.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick prep the night before gets your feet up quicker on Fridays

The Farmers' Markets are in abundance, and we have a lot of zucchini, squash, carrots, eggplant, peppers, and onions to get through!  Tomorrow's Friday and if you're looking to eat in, spend just 15 minutes preparing your family's side dish tonight and you'll come home tomorrow and be able to kick up your feet without any dinner worries.

Here is the roasted vegetable recipe I prepared a few weeks ago.  It's full of flavor without any added salt and it's tailored to what you and your family like.

Prepped zucchini, eggplant, carrots,
summer squash, onions, fingerling potatoes,
and red, green, and purple peppers.
Summer Roasted Vegetables

Any and all veggies you and your family love! 
     (How easy is that?!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

What to do
1. Cut all veggies into 1/2-inch or 1-inch cubes, julienne-style, etc.  If you're using carrots, zucchini, or other oblong vegetables, sometimes I like to chop them into 1/4-inch thick circles, while also slivering off some slices with a peeler to add some character to the side dish.

2. If you're preparing for a large family or with multiple vegetables, I recommend mixing the vegetables in a large bowl.  If this is a smaller-sized recipe that you're making, a gallon-sized, resealable plastic bag can work to mix and store your vegetables.

3. In a bowl or plastic bag, add all of your chopped vegetables.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil at a time and mix until all of the vegetables are evenly coated (this amount of olive oil will vary depending on your recipe size).

4. Add 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary for every 1 cup of chopped vegetables as well.  Mix thoroughly.  For the greatest amount of flavor, cover your recipe or seal your bag and let it sit overnight (up to 2 nights) to let it marinate.  Now your prep time is over!

5. When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a sheet pan or casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Add the vegetables to the pan.  The vegetables do not have to be in a single layer, but instead can be layered if you do not have enough room (they will still roast well).  Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked to your liking.  If you would like to add fresh herbs, add a few leaves of basil or sprigs of rosemary during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  For a stronger flavor, add additional basil, oregano, and rosemary to taste just prior to serving. 

Serve with fish, pork, or chicken dishes, or by itself as a fiber-filled vegetable meal by sprinkling with asiago or parmesan cheese and serving over whole-grain rice or Israeli couscous.  

Let me know how you like it and I'd love to hear your own twists on the recipe.  


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Unit Price... aka Math Genius

Welcome back!  Walking through the grocery store, we are bombarded with advertisements, specials, flags, flyers, pamphlets, and even TVs shouting us prices like we're supposed to be experts on a good deal... but now you can be!

First, let's hear comedian Jim Gaffigan's thoughts on the grocery store...

Now since we've been talking money at the grocery store, let's talk...

Unit Price

First of all, what the heck is the unit price?  Many of you may know, but to catch us all up to speed, the unit price is similar to the servings per container on a Nutrition Facts label, but it works with prices.  We look at the servings per container when it is difficult to understand what the company's serving size is (i.e. 2 ounces).  We can better guess what a serving size is by knowing that the box of spaghetti should share between 8 people (8 servings per container).  The unit price is similar, but in terms of money.

So, where is the unit price?  The unit price is usually listed to the left of the actual price of the product on the price tag.  Sometimes the unit price has an orange background, or may be found in very small print listed under the price.

The unit price is the price per ounce(s), gram(s), liter, etc.  The unit price is the price per unit that the company wants to talk in terms of.  This helps us the consumer to determine which size product is the better deal when shopping, or which brand truly is the better buy in terms of cost.

For example, I want to buy olive oil.  Olive oil comes in all different sorts of sizes, bottles, and varieties.  

Next I decide that I want extra virgin olive oil and I find the brand that I want to buy.  This particular brand offers its own million bottle sizes, so I feel like I'm starting back at square one.  No!  I got this in the bag.  The small 16.9oz bottle is listed at $7.49 (unit price $0.44/oz) and the larger 25.4oz bottle is listed at $8.99 ($0.35/oz).  If I don't want to do the math myself, it's listed there for me with the unit price.  The unit price is the $0.44/oz and $0.35/oz prices.  With this, I know that I'm getting a bigger discount by buying the larger bottle, since I'll be paying $0.09 less per ounce of olive oil.

Unit prices come in all different units.  Below you'll see another brand of extra virgin olive oil, listed at $3.49 with a unit price of $26.43/gallon- so we can't compare this unit price with the olive oil unit pricing I listed above.

Okay, maybe they're both loaded with fiber & vitamin C.  We digress...

Now, don't let marketing fool you! Sometimes, unit prices are not listed in the same  units, and therefore, we can't compare them.  Like the old saying goes, "You can't compare apples to oranges."

For example, I see hot chocolate in the store and their prices are similar.  So, I look at their unit price to see which is the better deal.  Unfortunately, one unit price is listed by price per 100 count of hot chocolate packets and the other is listed in price per pound.

It may not seem like a big difference, but if you relied on the unit price in this scenario and did not notice the unit differences, then you'd be comparing $12.90 vs. $2.03, respectively- thinking that by in large the product on the right is a better deal, which is not necessarily true.

In this case, you'd have to look at the two types of hot chocolate- maybe one has marshmallows, maybe one has reduced sugar- so which do you want?

If that doesn't help you decide between boxes, then, you'll have to look on the box and make sure both boxes have the same amount of hot chocolate packets inside.  Since the prices only differ by 2 cents, you want to make sure you're comparing two boxes with the same amount of product in them... and then it's up to you!  If you're comparing the box on the left priced at $1.29 with 10 packets to the product on the right with 5 packets at $1.27, the prices are not close any more.  You'd be paying almost double for the product on the right without knowing it!

 So, when does the unit price not come in handy?  Keep in mind that you want to be realistic in your shopping.  If you buy a larger product because it has a lower unit price, in most cases, it will still cost more.  Remember to stick with your budget!  Also, remember to stick to the realities of your needs.  If you buy in bulk and don't get to the product fast enough, it may spoil.  You'll be losing money when you throw away products.

On the other hand, large families may go through specific products more quickly, so they may benefit by buying in bulk.  This isn't to say that small households can't benefit by shopping with the unit price, but keep your needs in mind when looking at the unit price.  When it comes to staple products and pantry items, you can usually stock up without spoilage occurring as long as you have the space.  If anything, the unit price can help to compare prices between products of minimal size differences to help you get the most out of your hard-earned dollar.

Now, you must be thinking, "this is no typical nutrition student/soon-to-be dietitian with all this hot chocolate talk."  But when it comes to shopping, I want to give you all of the tools for you to make an informed decision no matter the food/product.  We'll get to the healthy stuff later, but we're all going to treat ourselves (and should!) and we should get the best deals on those treats!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Ron Swanson, now Andy Dwyer- no one explains it better!

OK... just wanted to hop back to my calorie post for a second.  I didn't explain it nearly as good as Andy Dwyer...

Maybe I'll just leave it up to Parks and Recreation to explain everything for me from now on!  Love it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tackling the Dreaded Grocery Store.... (Part 1)

So, I was just at a family dinner the other night (which was super amazing, and I have to say, until you get the time to take nights and weekends to enjoy family, you don't realize what you've been missing!) and the conversation came up about grocery shopping.  It's a serious love/hate relationship- more hate than anything for most people.  Fortunately, I would do it for a living- no, scratch that- even for volunteer work- if I could.  Let's loosen up with some Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation...

So, what do people hate about grocery shopping?  I'm sure the list is never-ending for most, but let's look at the top barriers and see if we can work around them (ever so slightly).  

#1- The Money

There's no doubt that money is a barrier for most of us when we go grocery shopping and we don't want to spend our hard-earned money on food that we might not like, may be overpriced, or might spoil quicker than we can eat it.  Let's first begin to understand how to get a good deal.

Coupons are always great to save money on products that we use all of the time, but when it comes to new products, coupons are a great way for companies to draw you in.  So, that's when you get the choice to cut coupons for foods and products you use all of the time.  

Buying a popular brand name of wheat bread (since you have the coupon) over the generic store brand's whole wheat bread (which you may typically buy) might not be the best purchase.  In many cases, the brand name item is still more expensive, but you think you're getting a deal.  For example, the other day I went to the store and had a coupon for a brand name cereal.  With the coupon of $0.50 off 2 boxes, the store brand was still more expensive than if I had bought 2 boxes of the generic cereal that I normally buy and enjoy.  

Of course, when it comes to healthful foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) and you will only eat them if you have the name brand, then by all means, I would encourage you to take advantage of the coupons for the name brands.

That brings me to my next thought- most coupons make you buy multiples of their items in order to receive the discount.  This is a) how they get you to buy more of their product and b) usually more than we need in our homes at one time.  

For example, if you want to treat you and your family to a box of cookies, then you will easily find a coupon in the newspaper or online for your favorite brand.  When the coupon saves you $0.75 on 3 boxes of cookies, then we have a surplus of cookies in our home, and for most of us, if it's there... we'll eat it!  So, let's do the math together.  If each box of cookies is $3.00/box, and you buy 3 boxes (per the coupon's rules), then you'll be spending $9.00+tax.  With the tricky coupon saving us a whopping $0.75, then we'll pay $8.25+tax on cookies, when if we just treated ourselves to the 1 box of cookies to begin with, we would have only paid $3.00+tax- for less cost and less calories in the home.

Let's leave it at that for today.  We'll talk unit price next.... See you next time at the table!  Thanks for stopping by!