Which Yogurt Should I Buy?

For me, one of the most confusing parts of the grocery store is the yogurt area.  There are so many options! There are different types and flavors, different nutrition, and different prices.  To play it safe, I usually stick with what my family likes – citrus flavored yogurts for me, peach yogurt for my husband, drinkable yogurt for my oldest son, Greek yogurt for my daughter, and small containers of yogurt for my youngest son.  


But, I have wondered, what if I am sacrificing nutrition or paying too much by playing it safe?  Down below, I have created a table to help make decisions when buying yogurt. I used the information for yogurt that is available at a local grocery store where I shop.



Yogurt Type

Container Size (oz) Cost Sugar (g) Calcium (%DV) Vitamin D (%DV)

Fruit flavored (original)


$0.46 19 20


Fruit flavored (light)

6 $0.46 10 15



5.3 $0.78 6 15


Greek fruit flavored (light)

5.3 $1.00 6 15



1 tube


(per tube)

8 10


Drinkable                 3.1


(per bottle)




*Percent Daily Value or %DV is the amount of that nutrient for a 2000 calorie diet.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Fast Food Restaurant vs Homemade Breakfast

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

It can be difficult to keep to a budget, keep yourself healthy and keep to your schedule. I have been trying to change my breakfast routine with the goal of reducing my stress and spending, all while being healthier. Easy right? If I pick up breakfast on the way to work from a drive-through, would it save me time and money? How healthy would it be? I tried a couple of fast food breakfasts near my home to see what I find and I’m sharing the low down with you.

Drive through breakfast


Time: 10 min — The fast food restaurant is about 6 min out of my way and the time through the drive-through was 4 min for a total of 10 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 2.59

Calories: 340

Fat: 15 g

Saturated fat: 5 g

Cholesterol: 175 mg

Sodium: 640 mg

Fiber: 1g

→ Comments: The sandwich was pretty good! I got crumbs all over my car, though. Plus, I couldn’t resist getting some breakfast potatoes, which I regretted later. If I had chosen this sandwich on a croissant instead it would have doubled my fat and added 160 calories!


Time: 12 min — The fast food restaurant is about 5 min out of my way and was very busy! The time through the drive-through was 7 min for a total of 12 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 4.19

Calories: 240                                   

Fiber: 3g

Fat: 2.5 g                                          

Sugar: 26 g, Added 18.95g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 125 mg

→ Comments: It was a good parfait, very sweet! It was also in a handy container. The fast-food restaurant I went to was very busy. I managed to get the last parfait, but I worry they would be out if I wanted to get one again.

At home breakfast


1 whole wheat English muffin – 1 egg – 1 slice reduced fat white American singles

Time: 7 min — It took me about 4 min to cook the egg and toast the bread, plus another 3 min for clean-up.

Cost: $ .56

Calories: 245

Fat: 8.5 g

Saturated fat: 3 g

Cholesterol: 196 mg

Sodium: 530 mg

Fiber: 3g

→ Comments: This sandwich was very similar to the one I had gotten at the drive-thru, except I used the whole wheat version of an English muffin. The sandwich I made at home had better nutrition for me with almost half the fat and triple the fiber. Though the cholesterol was higher, I assume that is only because of a difference in the type and size of eggs used. The sodium was a little lower in mine, but this experiment does show that sodium is hard to limit sometimes.


½ cup plain non-fat yogurt sweetened with 1 tsp honey – ½ cup berries (frozen, thawed) – 2 T granola

Time: 5 min — It took me about 3 min to make, plus another 2 min to clean up.

Cost: $1.16

Calories: 150

Fat: 2 g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 80 mg

Fiber: 6.9g

Sugar: 19.2 g,

Added sugars 6g

→ Comments: This was so easy to make. It has significantly less sugar and sodium, as well as more than double the fiber!

Verdict: Overall it was significantly cheaper to make the food at home. I saved $2.00+ on the sandwich and $3.00+ on the parfait, that’s over $5.00! $5.00+ per workday is equivalent to savings of over $100 per month! Both of my homemade items were a lot healthier for me too. The food from the fast food places was convenient, though I had to clean the crumbs out of my car later and it didn’t end up saving me any time. The largest downside for me was the temptation of all the other options available. Fried potatoes, whip cream coffee mocha-whatever-latte, and icing covered anything calling my name make it hard to stick to healthy eating. Overall the answer seems clear: skip the fast food breakfast and take the 5-7 min to make yourself something at home. Your wallet, your health, and your schedule will thank you.

On-line Grocery Shopping Part 3 – Cons

Welcome to the third part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. If you did not see the first two parts of this series, here are the links to the overview and the pros of on-line grocery shopping. Today we are going to look at, what I think, are the cons to on-line grocery shopping.


The first challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is the PRODUCE.

  • I like to look around the produce section to see what looks best and is the best value. I cannot do this when looking at the pictures of the produce on-line.
  • Someone else chooses your produce for you, so you may not get what you would usually choose for yourself. However, I have received good quality produce in my experiences so far.


The second challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is LEAVING AN ITEM OFF.

  • It usually happens that I forget to buy something or that an item is unavailable. This leaves me in a bind when I am trying to make a meal later in the week. I either have to make a special trip to the store or use what I have on hand to make a substitution.
  • When this happens, I cannot do on-line shopping for the single item because they have a minimum order cost ($30 at one store and $100 at the other). However, at one of the stores you can pay a fee if your order is under the minimum cost.


The third challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is PERSONAL.

  • I am a food person, so I like to look around at all the different foods in the store. I do not get this chance with on-line shopping.
  • I like to take my children to the store so they can learn about shopping and choosing foods.
  • I cannot use re-usable bags with on-line grocery shopping.


I feel like I have balanced these challenges well with alternating on-line and in-store grocery shopping. I think the pros of on-line grocery shopping outweigh the cons and I plan to continue with on-line grocery shopping.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 2 – Pros

Welcome to the second part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. I hope you enjoyed our overview last week. This week I would like to tell you about all of the things I think are great about on-line grocery shopping.


The first thing that I like about on-line grocery shopping is the TIME SAVINGS.

  • It only takes me about 30 minutes to select the foods I want and set up my pickup/delivery time.
  • I do not need to fight the crowd in the store or in the parking lot.
  • I do not have to take my children into the store.
  • The grocery store staff load up my car or help me carry my groceries into my house.


The second thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the MONEY SAVINGS.

  • It is easy to stick to my budget because I can see the total price increasing as I add foods to my cart.
  • I can easily add or take away food items as needed to fit my budget and my needs.
  • There is no temptation to buy the extra things displayed around the store, so I avoid impulse buys.
  • I have all of the information on the website to determine unit prices and compare products easily.


The third thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the KINDNESS of the staff.

  • I have had great experiences with the grocery store staff being very kind and helpful.
  • The staff do a great job of explaining any substitutions that were made.
  • The staff make a point of keeping fragile foods (bread, eggs) safe.


Overall, I think that on-line grocery shopping is a great experience and it is very helpful, especially when I do not have a lot of time. I would recommend on-line grocery shopping to anyone who wants to try it.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Sometimes Less is More

This month I challenged myself to investigate the pros and cons of individually packaged products. I see everything from pet food to cut veggies to medicine in individually-sized packages these days. Here is what I found as I looked at price, convenience, waste and some other factors related to individually-packaged foods.

  1. Price: My hunch was that the individual packages would cost more than buying larger containers. Interestingly, this is not always true. For example, I found animal crackers and graham crackers that had the same unit price whether I bought one large box or individual snack packs. Other items like salad dressing and baby carrots were up to 50% more expensive in the individual packages. If you would like to compare prices easily, try out the Unit Price Calculator in our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. App
  2. Convenience: The little packages are certainly handy. You can grab them for your lunch or a snack on the run with no trouble at all. It is also nice that individually packaged foods stay sealed in their package until you are ready to eat them, which reduces the likelihood of the food losing quality or going stale. Additionally, if you need to bring snacks to a children’s event, you can’t beat them for easy serving to many little hands.
  3. Waste: Individual packages often mean extra packaging and increased waste. I found this to be true and much of the additional packaging was not the type of plastic that my city will accept for recycling. This bothers me since one of my new year’s resolutions was to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I throw out.
  4. Some additional considerations: Small packages can help with portion control, which is a nice advantage. However, it is worth noting that some individual packages are larger than a single serving from the larger package. For example, the salad dressing I mentioned above came in little cups that were equivalent to 1 ½ servings from the full-size bottle. In that case, they may contribute to you eating more than you would have otherwise.

Overall, I think I will stick with buying most products in full-size packages. I will try to steal some of the convenience and portion control of the little packages by putting items for snacks and lunches in small reusable containers to start the week. Do you have any foods that you prefer in single-serve packages? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Time to Make a Grocery Shopping Change

My oldest son recently turned 8 years old. Along with that birthday has come a growth spurt. Clothes that fit him a month ago are now too short and too tight. He is hungry all the time! Our pantry and refrigerator are emptying out more quickly than before.  


This has made me realize that I need to re-think my typical grocery shopping trip. I shop for groceries weekly and, depending on the store, the foods I purchase are pretty much the same from week to week.  This helps me stay on track with my budget. Unfortunately, an increase in appetite does not mean an increase in food budget. I need to look more closely at the foods I plan to make in the coming weeks to make sure my son (and the rest of my family) get the nutrition they need while staying within our food budget.


As I plan my next grocery shopping trip, here are three things I am going to look at more closely:

  1. Protein. I need to spend more time looking at the grocery ads before I go shopping to make sure I am choosing protein foods that fit my meal plan and my budget. For many recipes, I can substitute a less expensive protein choice.
    • Stir-Fry is a great recipe for this – I can use beef, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
  2. Vegetables. I need to add more vegetables to my recipes. My whole family likes canned beans and frozen vegetables. These are choices that can add nutrition to a recipe without putting me outside of my budget.
  3. Snacks. I have gotten into a habit of buying pre-packaged snacks. Yes, they are easier, but they are more expensive. I think I can save myself money by reducing the number of pre-packaged snacks I buy and packaging snacks into reusable containers myself.
    • Trail Mix is an easy snack to make and to package into small containers that will travel easily with us to the park or the pool this summer.












Stick with me on this one! When it is my turn to blog this summer, I will give you updates about how I am doing with my grocery shopping changes.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cowboy Caviar

Our May recipe of the month is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe is easy to make, tastes amazing, and packs a nutritional punch. All you have to do is combine some beans, chopped vegetables, and a chopped avocado with a quick homemade salad dressing. With that, you are ready to serve, or, in my case, eat!

I am not sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before, but, in addition to being a lover of great food, I am a dietitian. The food lover part of me drools over this recipe because it tastes so good and it is versatile. I can serve it as a dip for a party, I can scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a wrap for lunch or supper, or I can simply grab a spoon and eat up (I have been known to do all three). The dietitian part of me loves this recipe because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In the coming weeks you are going to hear a lot from us about the wonderful nutrient fiber. Next week, Christine is going to tell us about what fiber can do for our bodies and foods that have fiber in them.

In the meantime, make a batch of Cowboy Caviar and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Kids and Technology in the Grocery Store

This week in our series on getting kids involved in the cooking and shopping, I’m going to share some tips for getting kids involved in grocery shopping. When I was grocery shopping with my 4-year-old daughter recently, I was thinking what I might share in the blog. As she was pushing the little cart she was using, I was thinking, children might look cute pushing those little carts but as a parent, sometimes they are my worst nightmare. Funny thing is, when I was back in the office and reading through some past blogs, I shared those same thoughts in a blog about grocery shopping with my son 5 years ago when he was 3! I’d encourage you to read that blog for ideas to get younger kids involved when grocery shopping.

Today, I’d like to share a couple of ways older kids can be involved with grocery shopping.

  1. Use our grocery budget calculator. The online calculator provides the weekly and monthly amount your family needs to spend for nutritious meals on USDA’s Low-cost Plan. To use the calculator you will need the age, gender, and number of meals eaten away from home for each member of your household. You and your child can then compare this to how much you spend on groceries. The online calculator provides tips on how to reduce your grocery bill if you are spending over that amount. It also provides ideas if you are spending under that amount. This activity can help children better understand the cost of food and why it’s important to not waste food. If you’re not sure how much you spend on food, we have resources for tracking your food expenses.
  2. Download and use our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. Older kids who have cellphones can download our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app to use in the store. Or you can let them use the app on your phone when they are shopping with you. Kids can enter information into the unit price calculator to help you determine which item is the better buy. Or they can look up information about different produce in the store using our Produce Basics to help you determine how to select produce and how you might prepare it at home.

Next week in our series we’ll share a recipe kids can help make.

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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Sweet Potato Fries Comparison

Sweet potato fries are a current favorite of mine. Really, they’ve been a favorite of mine for a couple of years! I order them when eating out and I make them at home. Sometimes I make them homemade and other times I bake a bag of frozen fries from the store. I was curious what the difference in nutrition and cost would be between these, so I did a little research and here is what I found.

  Serving Size* Cost/serving Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Homemade 2/3 cup $0.32 120 2.5 110>
(National Brand)
1 cup $0.50 150 7> 190
(Nationwide Chain)**
1 cup $1.49 400 20 1020

*Serving sizes vary up to a 1/3 cup.
**Nutrition information from restaurant website.

I make the homemade fries using our recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. The serving size is a bit smaller but since they are baked and you can control the amount of salt added, they provide the best nutrition. My homemade fries are lower in fat and sodium than the restaurant and frozen options. The frozen fries do pretty well for nutrition though, if they are baked. They are higher in fat and sodium but still pretty reasonable. The fries from the restaurant are the most expensive and highest in calories, fat, and sodium. They are likely deep fat fried which would increase the fat and calories. And heavy on the salt. The restaurant’s nutrition information did not provide the amount of Vitamin A in the sweet potato fries but all three kinds would provide a good dose of Vitamin A. Therefore, if you want to eat fries when eating out, you might go for the sweet potato fries to boost the nutrition of the fries. Like with so many food choices, making sweet potato fries at home is going to be the least expensive and the most nutritious.


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 Real Cost of Condiments

By Kelly Verburgt, Nutrition Program Student Assistantyellow mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayo

From burgers at barbecues to hot dogs at baseball games, condiments are a summer necessity. With so many to choose from and different sized bottles, which will give you the most bang for your buck? Check out some of the most popular options below and see which condiments you should choose this summer.


Ketchup is a classic that is useful for more than just hot dogs and burgers. From meatloaf to “yum yum” sauce at hibachi restaurants, ketchup can be quite versatile and used in many recipes. At only $0.09 per ounce and $2.99 for a big 32-ounce bottle, ketchup is certainly low cost.


Whether you love it or hate it, we have all tried this tangy yellow sauce. At only $1.99 for a 14-ounce bottle, and $0.14 per ounce, this is a cheap addition to any barbecue. Like ketchup, mustard can be spiced up and turned into all sorts of things like dressings or sauces. Try using it in the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Deviled Eggs recipe!

Hot sauce

For those of you who like to add a kick to your food, hot sauce is probably your go-to. Per ounce, hot sauce is the most expensive condiment at $0.22 per ounce, and $1.29 for a 6-ounce bottle. If you only use it now and then, hot sauce can be a great condiment to have on hand. However, if you put it on everything, it can get expensive. Try cooking with red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, they add spice for less money!

BBQ sauce

This condiment is sweet and delicious and can be the perfect dip for just about any type of meat. Ringing in at $2.69 for an 18-ounce bottle, this sauce is only $0.15 per ounce. It can be high in calories, so use it in moderation. It is delicious on our Shredded Pork Sandwich or Chicken Tenders.


Ranch salad dressing is a favorite among children, what they dip in it seems limitless! At $2.99 for a 16-ounce bottle, ranch comes in at $0.19 per ounce. It is one of the more expensive condiments, but if it gets you and your family to eat vegetables, it is totally worth it. Try setting out a vegetable platter with ranch at your next barbecue and watch it disappear. Ranch salad dressing can be quite high in fat and calories so model appropriate portion sizes (1-2 tablespoons). Remember, there are reduced fat versions available.

Condiment Total Cost Ounces Cost/Ounce
Ketchup $2.99 32 $0.09
Mustard $1.99 14 $0.14
Hot Sauce $1.29 6 $0.22
BBQ $2.69 18 $0.15
Ranch $2.99 16 $0.19

Now that you are an expert on condiments, you can make an informed decision at the grocery store on what fits your family best. Wishing you tasty and fun barbeques this summer!



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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