March is my favorite month because it’s about new beginnings. Spring, after all, arrives
during this time of year. For registered dietitians like me, March is also National Nutrition Month, the time of the year when I 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 not only important to know which foods are best for you, but which ones also give you the most bang for your buck.
To me, it’s important to let families know that eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. While junk food may seem really convenient and affordable, they shouldn’t play a big part of the family diet because they don’t provide the best nutritional value. If you want to get the most return on your dollar and your health, stick to authentic, natural and wholesome foods. Especially good purchases are Super Foods which are foods that offer multiple nutrients while providing a myriad of health benefits with minimal calories.
I see many food trends come and go, but authentic, natural, wholesome foods have been around forever. Think about it. One example is milk. 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 that has no nutritional value. Milk, a Super Food, has nine essential nutrients including Vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, muscles, teeth, hair and nails…all the more reason to say GOT MILK?
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 low fat or nonfat milk. Foods, like milk, 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. There are many fruits that are also a great source of soluble fiber, which may help lower cholesterol. Nutrient-packed fruits for about a dollar include three oranges, three to four bananas or three 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 three servings of baby carrots.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet and are good sources of complex carbohydrates and B-vitamins, which our bodies need for energy. 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. So spring into action when it comes to better nutrition for your family.
Guest Writer – Ashley Rosales, RD
Ashley Rosales, registered dietitian for Dairy Council of California, received her B.S. in Clinical Nutrition from UC Davis and completed the dietetic internship program at Napa State Hospital. She has a professional background in nutrition for the elderly and has worked in both the clinical and community setting.