Homemade Protein Snacks

Last week I shared the cost and nutrition of three different brands of protein packs. However, when comparing the price of an individual pack to building my own at home, the results can’t be beat. I saved money, used a reusable container to avoid waste, and got more protein than I would have with the store-bought snack packs.

Here are some ideas for building your own protein snack pack. As you can see, most of the items are cheaper than buying the pre-packaged option! All of these snack packs have 10 grams or more of protein per serving and varying calories based on your needs. 

Build your own: 


Grocery Store Total Cost per ServingSupermarket Total Cost per ServingCalories (kcal)Protein (grams)
1 ounce ham + 1 ounce cheddar cheese + 2 tablespoons almonds$1.53$0.9222020
1 ounce cheddar cheese + 2 tablespoons almonds + 2 tablespoons dried cranberries $1.16$0.9025010
1 boiled egg + 1 ounce ham + ½ cup carrots$1.13$0.6016517
2 tablespoons hummus + ½ cup carrots + 1 string cheese $0.97$0.6217510
1 ounce turkey jerky + 1 string cheese$2.12$1.1815020
½ apple + 2 tablespoons peanut butter + 1 string cheese $0.80$0.7030014

To get the most out of the protein you consume, try spreading it throughout the day. Healthy adults need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, according to the Recommended Daily Allowance. The average female would need around 46 grams, and the average male needs around 56 grams of protein each day. 

This blog was written by Iowa State University Dietetic Intern Laurynn Verry.

Protein Snack Boxes – Convenient or Costly?

From work or school to sports practices, events and everything in between, finding time to eat during the day can be difficult! It seems like grabbing a quick snack at the grocery store is a perfect solution…until you compare the cost to individual servings of protein foods. Yes, I will admit that I am guilty of buying these little convenient protein packs to stash in my lunch for a quick afternoon snack before I head out the door to my next event. However, I might rethink how much I’m spending on this packs. 

Below are some common protein packs, which vary from 1.5 – 2 ounce portions. There are many brands that make these packs. I chose these three because they are common national brands and not because of any particular attributes of the products. The average cost from a smaller grocery store was $1.89, the price at a larger supermarket was $1.28 and from a convenience store was $1.75


Cost/Serving Grocery StoreCost/Serving SupermarketCost/Serving Convenience Store Calories* (kcal) Protein* (grams)
Oscar Mayer P3 (ham, almonds, cheddar – 2.3 ounces)$2.19$1.50$1.9919012 
Sargento Balanced Breaks (white cheddar cheese, almonds, dried cranberries – 1.5 ounces)$1.49$1.09$1.691807
Hormel Natural Choice (ham, white cheddar cheese, dark chocolate pretzels – 2 ounces)$1.99$1.25$1.5918010
Average Cost:$1.89$1.28$1.75

*Calorie and protein information from supermarket website

After researching the pre-packaged protein packs, I wanted to check pricing on individual items. Here is what I found. 

Individual costs of protein foods


Cost/Serving Grocery StoreCost/Serving SupermarketCalories* (kcal)Protein* (grams)
Ham – 2 ounces$0.62$0.366010
Almonds – ¼ cup $0.55$0.351606
Peanuts – 1 ounce$0.19$0.121607
Cheddar cheese – 1 ounce$0.25$0.211107
String cheese – 1 each $0.29$0.24707
Eggs – 1 each$0.12$0.05706
Hummus – 2 tablespoons$0.29$0.19702
Peanut butter – 2 tablespoons$0.11$0.091907
Turkey jerky – 1 ounce $1.83$0.948013

*Calorie and protein information from supermarket website

Some of these have more protein in them as a single item than the snack pack as a whole! I even have many of them on hand at home.  Next week, I will share how I put together some of these snack packs in my own kitchen.

This blog was written by Iowa State University Dietetic Intern Laurynn Verry.

October recipes you will love

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

It’s October, the air is crisp and football is in full swing. This time of year finds me craving warm and comforting food while I cheer on Iowa State. The fall line-up of vegetables includes squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Squash and pumpkin can be intimidating. Not everyone is used to dealing with these hard vegetables with inedible skins, unless they’re carving one for Halloween of course! I recommend this how-to for squash and pumpkin to get you started:  

How to Prepare Winter Squash This is an easy and quick way to cook squash and pumpkin. After cooking you can then use the squash and pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin (pies, cakes, soups, etc.). 

Note: sweet potato also makes a great substitute for canned pumpkin.  

Consider adding the recipes below to your fall cooking line-up!

For warm and comforting dinners:

Squash

Butternut Squash Enchiladas A fun and creative take on enchiladas. Use corn tortillas for a delicious and nutritious gluten free dinner. 

Autumn Soup You can’t have fall without it. Apples add a nice sweetness to this creamy soup. 

Sweet Potato, Squash, or Cauliflower

Easy Roasted Veggies This versatile recipe does a nice job bringing out the natural sweetness of rich fall veggies.

Sweet Potato

Mashed Sweet Potatoes Three ingredients yield a whole lot of yum in this easy side dish. 

For pumpkin spice lovers:

Pumpkin

Pumpkin Apple Cake Add nuts if you want or substitute chocolate cake mix if you prefer.  This easy cake is great with coffee. 

Pumpkin Pudding A great recipe to make with kids. Dip graham crackers or apples as a fun treat.

Bowl of pumpkin pudding

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Breakfast for Busy Mornings

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

We’ve made it through another summer. School is back in session and so are busy mornings. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in the morning; making sure everyone is ready, out the door, and fed. Figuring out a quick, nutritious, and tasty breakfast can be the most challenging part of the school routine. Luckily, the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app have a lot of good recipes that you can either make ahead or make quickly. 

scrambled egg muffin

Make Ahead

These recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just microwave and send them on their way! 

These make ahead baked goods have an added bonus of going great with coffee or doubling as an easy snack time solution. 

Quick Fix

Looking for something that you can make in a hurry? Look no further. 

I hope these recipes help to lighten the load of busy mornings. Sending our best to you and yours this school year.

Summer is a time for Food, Friends, and Fun – Find a Summer Meal site near you!

Summer break is almost here!  While learning does not end when school lets out, neither does the need for good nutrition.  Children who are well nourished in the summer return to school ready to learn in the fall. The USDA Summer Food Service Program, administered by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by local schools, cities, and community organizations, provides free meals to children when school is out.  

Over 500 summer meal sites, also known as Summer Meal MeetUps, will operate across Iowa from June through August.  All kids and teens, ages 18 and younger, can receive a meal for free, no identification or sign-in is required. In addition to a meal, many sites will offer fun learning and recreational activities, so kids stay active and spend time with friends.  

Plan for a nutritious summer today!  You can find a summer meal site near you, including in Iowa and in states across the US, using one of the methods below.  Meals, days and times vary by location, so check your local site for availability. Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!

Summer is a time for food, friends, and fun!  Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals in the summer months by participating at a site near you!  See you this summer!

Written by Stephanie Dross, Iowa Department of Education

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

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