Shredded, sliced, or string cheese: Which one is a better buy?

Last week I wrote about our new video on unit pricing and how the unit price calculator on our app can help save you money. This week I want to share how I use the unit price calculator to help me determine the best buy on different forms of cheese.

My family loves cheese. Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese. We like it all. Cheese can be one of the higher priced items on my grocery list so I always try to buy it when it’s on sale. This week I decided to use the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. unit price calculator on my phone to determine the unit price for each of the different forms of cheese I usually buy. This is what I found.

 

Form Total Price Size Unit Price (price per ounce)
Shredded 1.99 (on sale) 8 ounces 25 cents
Slices 2.89 8 ounces 36 cents
String 3.79 10 ounces 38 cents

Shredded cheese is what we use the most, so I was glad to see that it had the best unit price. Since shredded cheese freezes well and it was a good price, I bought a few extra bags for later use. Often, the whole block of cheese has a lower unit price, but for my needs, I prefer the convenience of the pre-shredded cheese and I am willing to pay a bit more for it. We use sliced cheese for sandwiches and snacks. I planned ham and cheese sandwiches for a quick supper on one of our busy nights this week, so I did buy a packet of the sliced cheese as well. We use string cheese for snacks, but this week I decided to not buy any since we had the sliced cheese that could be used for a snack as well.

Next week Christine will share with you how she uses unit pricing to help her determine the best buy based on package size.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Save Money with Unit Pricing

Unit pricing is a great way to save money. It helps you determine which brand, which size, or which form is the best deal. It can even save you from being tricked by flashy ‘Sale’ signs. But who wants to stand in the grocery aisle doing math to figure out the unit price? Now you don’t have to! Watch our new video on unit pricing to learn how to use the unit price calculator on our app to help you get the best deal without all the hassle.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Four Layer Supper

Our March recipe of the month is an old favorite here in Iowa. Four Layer Supper is a casserole that has been a staple recipe here for many years. The name says it all, this recipe is a casserole made up of four layers – potatoes, green beans, ground beef and onions, and cheese.

Over the years, we have learned from this recipe and made some updates. These updates make the recipe easier, more nutritious, and less expensive.

  • To save time, prick the potatoes with a fork and microwave them for 5 minutes before cutting them up. This will reduce the baking time by 15-20 minutes.
  • To add nutrition to this recipe, substitute sweet potatoes for all or some of the white potatoes. Sweet potatoes boost the fiber and vitamin A in this recipe.
  • To save money on this recipe, check your grocery ads and substitute a less expensive meat for the ground beef. This could even be leftover cooked meat from a previous meal.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Physical Activity – It’s Not Just About Weight

We know being active is important for our health. But sometimes it’s hard to do something routine that we might not see the benefits from until years down the road. One thing that can help is focusing on the immediate benefits you get from being active right now!

People report all sorts of benefits to being active; an improved mood, more energy, and they just feel better! When we’re active the blood moves throughout our bodies and keeps everything functioning. At the same time, our brain releases endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Making us feel good and reducing stress! In addition, it improves our selfconfidence, relaxes us, and lowers the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

Physical activity can also help us get a better night’s sleep. By reducing stress and tension, it can improve our sleep quality and duration. And getting some activity actually makes you more able to fall asleep easier. And an added bonus, exercisers may reduce their risk for developing troublesome sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

Remember all activity counts, no matter the duration. So get moving to feel and sleep better today! Do you have a story of how getting active has improved your life? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter this week.

Sarah Taylor Watts, MPA, PAPHS Physical Activity Coordinator Iowa Department of Public Health

Play Your Way One Hour a Day

Last week we talked about the new physical activity recommendations for adults. Today we’ll focus on the kiddos (age 6-17).

We know that kids who are active have stronger bones and muscles, a healthier heart and lungs and tend to have lower body fat. Physical activity helps children become healthier adults.

But adulthood may seem like a long way off. What about now? Physical activity can help your child feel energized, self-confident and happy. It helps them pay attention in school and sleep better too!

So how much physical activity does your child need? The new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans give us some helpful recommendations.

  • Be active for 60 minutes or more every day. (Tip: Break up the minutes throughout the day.)
  • Spend most of that time doing moderate-intensity activities, like riding a bike or scooter (non-motorized), playing catch or walking briskly.
  • Include vigorous-intensity activities at least three days a week, like running and chasing games (tag or flag football), jumping rope, or sports like soccer, basketball and swimming.
  • Mix in activities that strengthen muscles and bones, such as climbing and playing on monkey bars, running and jumping.

Children with physical disabilities can adapt activities to meet the guidelines their own way. Most importantly, physical activity should be fun for your child. They should do what they enjoy and try a variety of activities.

At the Iowa Department of Public Health we encourage children to be physical activity with a campaign called Play Your Way. One Hour A Day. Check out the video of two kids doing what they love at idph.iowa.gov/inn/play-your-way.

Suzy Wilson, RDN, LDN Community Health Consultant Iowa Department of Public Health

Boost your Muscles Bones and Brain

Being physically active is one of the most important things Americans can do to improve their health. Being active is so good for you. It gets the blood pumping, from your heart to all your muscles, bones and brain. As a result, it prevents a whole host of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. It is good for our mental health and helps with healthy aging as well.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released in 2018 refined how much physical activity we need. Adults need 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity for general health benefits. Moderate intensity physical activity is anything that gets your heart beating faster. The good news is small bursts of activity add up all week long, and they have an activity planner to help you think through when you can find time for activity!

The activity planner helps you choose activity you want to do and see how it can all add up to 150 minutes. It can also help you set weekly goals, get personalized tips and stay motivated.

Let us know how you’re incorporating activity into your day by chatting with us on Facebook (@Spend Smart. Eat Smart.) or Twitter (@SpendEatSmart).

Sarah Taylor Watts, MPA, PAPHS Physical Activity Coordinator Iowa Department of Public Health

Cheesy Chicken Casserole

Our February recipe of the month is Cheesy Chicken Casserole.  This recipe is an easy, tasty, and nutritious one dish meal.

Some of my favorite dinners to make are one dish meals.  All the ingredients come together in one pot, skillet, baking dish, or slow cooker.  Homemade one dish meals are my favorites because: 

  • They are often nutritious.  One dish meals typically contain three or four food groups (vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy).
  • They are often flexible allowing you to use different types of veggies, proteins or grain foods based on what you enjoy and what you have on hand.
  • They are easy to clean up.  One dish meals do not dirty a lot of dishes.
  • They are easy to prepare.
  • They are less expensive than boxed or frozen one dish meals.

Make Cheesy Chicken Casserole your own by changing up the protein and the vegetables.  You can adjust this recipe based on the foods you have on hand.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Meal Planning for the Health of It

Last week Rachel shared five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice. In the blog, she
mentioned learning new skills that can improve your health, like meal planning, instead of focusing
solely on weight. Meal planning is a popular practice; especially at the beginning of the year when
people are trying to eat better, save money and be more organized. It can help you check off all three!
Today I’m going to share with you five tips for meal planning with health in mind.

  1. Include foods from each of the food groups. This allows you to get a variety of nutrients provided by
    each of the food groups needed for good health. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet has a checklist at
    the bottom to help you determine if you included something from each food group.
  2. Balance the food groups throughout the day. Aim to have 1-2 food groups at snacks and 3-4 food
    groups at meals. For example, at breakfast you might have a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast,
    an orange, and glass of milk. Then at snack you have celery sticks with peanut butter.
  3. Include two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. This is a general guide for each person
    per day. An example would be a banana for breakfast, an apple and broccoli for lunch, and vegetable
    soup for dinner. To determine the specific amount you need and for information on what counts as a
    serving, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
  4. Include whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for health. It is recommended
    to make half your grains whole grains. Therefore, if your family prefers white pasta, balance that out by
    including other whole grains in your menu plan like brown rice or whole wheat bread.
  5. Include both plant and animal proteins. Animal proteins are a good source of iron while plant
    proteins are higher in fiber. If you have chicken at lunch, consider having lentil tacos for supper. Or mix
    both beans and meat with pasta instead of just meat.
    If you’re new to meal planning, use our sample meal planning calendar to help get started. We also have
    a new sample vegetarian meal planning calendar.

Next week Justine will share a recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole that you just might want to include
on your meal plan!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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The Red Flags of Diet Advice and Where to Turn for Help

The new year is upon us and you can hardly turn on the TV, open up a magazine, or visit with a friend without some diet trend surfacing. Whether it be probiotics to boost your gut health or intermittent fasting, everyone seems to be an expert. While there is no shortage of diets, reliable nutrition information can seem scarce at times. So where do you turn when presented with nutrition advice that seems well intentioned, but actually may do more harm than good? Read below for five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice.

Red flags when considering diet advice:

  • Promises rapid weight loss. Weight loss more rapid than 1-2 pounds per week tends to be regained even faster. Many factors play into our weight status, including genetics and physical activity levels, along with what we eat. Rather than focusing solely on weight, consider if you will be learning new skills that improve your health, like meal prepping or choosing whole grain foods.
  • Cuts out entire food groups. Removing an entire food group (like dairy, grains, or legumes) without a medical reason to do so (such as a food allergy) is impractical and can cause you to miss out on key nutrients.
  • Detoxes/cleanses/fasts. Did you know your body comes with built in detoxifiers? That’s right, your kidneys and liver have been doing this since the day you were born! Additionally, there are many concerns regarding following a cleanse diet for an extended period of time, including fatigue due to limited protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dehydration.
  • Requires you to purchase pills/bars/or shakes. A sustainable (and affordable!) eating pattern is based on food readily available in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
  • No need to be physically active. Physical activity is essential for good health and weight management and should be a part of your daily routine.

So what should you be looking for in terms of nutrition advice? First, consider recommendations that focus on your overall meal pattern rather than a specific diet. Your health status is a reflection of what you consume over the course of time, not a diet you follow for a few weeks. A healthy meal pattern encourages balance and moderation, does not exclude any particular food or food group, and emphasizes small changes to improve your health. For healthy meal pattern ideas, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., choosemyplate.gov, and www.eatright.org. Next week on the blog, Jody will share some tips and tools to help you get started with healthy meal planning.

Written by: Rachel Wall, MS, RD, LD

Good or Bad? Finding Reliable Nutrition Information on the Web

The Keto diet, the DASH diet, the Paleo diet. What about Intermittent Fasting? With the start of a new year, many people set New Year’s resolutions with hopes of making some sort of change in their life. A top New Year’s resolution is to eat better and lose weight. And a popular source people look to for nutrition information is the internet. You can find reliable nutrition information on the web, but you need to be careful where you look and what websites you trust. Below are five tips for finding trustworthy nutrition information online.

  • Consider the source. Choose most often sites that have web addresses that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. These are most often websites for government agencies, educational institutions, and professional organizations.
  • Know the sites purpose. Is it to provide information or to sell something? If available, read the “About” section of the site to help determine the reliability of the information on the site.
  • Look for the evidence. Health decisions are best based on medical and scientific research, not on opinion. Look to see the sources of information for the website. Be cautious of sites that offer information from a single source.
  • Check the date. Health information is continually changing. Check the bottom of the page to find out how recently it was updated or reviewed.
  • Visit a health professional. Online health information should not replace talking with your physician or other health professionals.
  • Along with Spend Smart. Eat Smart., visit www.choosemyplate.gov and www.eatright.org for reliable nutrition information. Next week we will have guest blogger Rachel Wall share red flags to be aware of when considering different diets and how to find an eating pattern that is right for you.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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