How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck at the Grocery Store

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By Ashley Rosales, RD Dairy Council of CA and Got Milk?

March is National Nutrition Month, the time of the year when I, a registered dietitian, closely work with families to make better informed choices when it comes to nutrition. With family budgets continuing to tighten in today’s tough economy, it is important to know which foods nutritionally give you the most bang for your buck.

I see many food trends come and go, but authentic, natural, wholesome foods have been around forever. If families really look into stretching their dollar, they can get four, eight-ounce cups of skim milk instead of a sugar-filled can (or two) of soda with no nutritional value. Milk, a Superfood, has nine essential nutrients including Vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, muscles, teeth, hair, and nails.

The My Plate nutrition guide released last year by the USDA recommends that families’ meals consist of at least half fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and topped off with dairy, such as a glass of skim milk. Foods that yield multiple servings to stretch the dollar at the grocery store for a family include:

— Fruits: Fruits are packed with a lot of essential vitamins, like Vitamin A and C, which can promote proper growth and improve our immune system. Many fruits are also a great source of soluble fiber, which may help lower cholesterol. Nutrient-packed fruits for about a dollar include three oranges, bananas, or apples.

— Vegetables: A diet high in vegetables provides important antioxidants, which may help protect cells in the body from damage. Most vegetables are also low-in fat and calories yet packed with many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nutrient-packed vegetables for about a dollar include three servings of sweet potato or baby carrots.

— Whole Grains: Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet and are good sources of complex carbohydrates and B-vitamins, to energize our bodies. Whole grains are also packed with fiber, which can help you stay full longer. Nutrient-packed whole grains for about a dollar include six servings of oatmeal or 10 servings of brown rice.

— Protein: Protein is crucial to building and maintaining healthy, strong bones and muscles, which is why athletes make it an important part of their diet. Protein also helps our bodies resist against infection. Nutrient-rich lean proteins for about a dollar include eight servings of beans or one, four-ounce serving of chicken breast.

Paying closer attention to what you put in your grocery basket and taking simple steps in your day-to-day routine will make a big difference. Now is the time to spring into action when it comes to better nutrition for your family. For more information, visit www.gotmilk.com.

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