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.

Peanut Butter Balls For the Win!

Peanut Butter Balls It is 3:18pm on a Monday afternoon as I write this blog. How do you usually feel around 3:00 in the afternoon? If you’re anything like me, you get a little sleepy and a little hungry – or maybe a lot hungry!

This week’s blog is all about a go-to snack that can rescue you on a busy weekday afternoon when you just need a pick-me-up. Peanut Butter Balls are a sweet, chewy snack that can help you tackle the day.

As you might guess, they contain peanut butter, yum! They also contain two surprising ingredients. The first is dry oatmeal. The oatmeal binds this recipe together and provides whole grain carbohydrate for energy and fiber. You may be shocked to learn that these little snacks also get a protein boost from mashed beans in addition to the peanut butter. Weird, I know! Trust me, they’re delicious and you would never know the beans are in there once they’re dressed up with some peanut butter and honey.

I hope you’ll take my word for it and give these little treats a try. You can whip up a whole batch at once and keep them in the freezer for a quick snack anytime. Perhaps best of all, two Peanut Butter Balls cost just $0.15 to make. I challenge you to find a granola bar or trail mix for that price!

Enjoy!
Christine

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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Chewy Granola Bars

chewy granola bars Our June recipe of the month is quick, easy, and delicious – Chewy Granola Bars. For a long time, I wanted to make homemade granola bars, but I never got around to it. When I was given the idea for this recipe, I knew it was time to try it for myself. It turns out that it is very easy and it tastes great too.

These granola bars are great for a snack for children or adults and here is why:

  • The oatmeal is a whole grain, which gives the body both carbohydrates and fiber. So, it gives you energy and makes you feel full. Whole grains have many other benefits for our bodies – we will look into these more as we work our way through a whole grain series on the blog this month.
  • The peanut butter adds protein and fat, which can help tide you over until the next meal.
  • The syrup used to sweeten the granola bars adds a delicious maple flavor.
  • These granola bars only cost 8 cents each! That is a small fraction of the cost of a pre-packaged granola bar.

I hope you enjoy making (and eating) your own Chewy Granola Bars this week!

 

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Zesty Whole Grain Salad

zesty_whole_grain_saladwpToday I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.

This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:

  • It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
  • The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
  • It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
  • You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
  • It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.

Zesty Whole Grain Salad
zesty-whole-grain-salad-label-webServing Size: 6  |  Serves: 1 1/2 cups  |  Cost Per Serving: $1.43
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked whole grain (brown rice, kamut™, quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins)
  • 1 bunch kale or 10-ounce package spinach (about 6 cups), torn into bite-sized pieces

Instructions:

  1. Cook whole grain according to package directions. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir apples, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain into dressing.
  4. Toss greens with other ingredients.

Tips:

  • Substitute 2 cups of chopped fruit (strawberries, grapes, oranges) for the apples.
  • Do not give honey and nuts to infants under one year of age.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Don’t Let Dry Beans Scare You

ThinkstockPhotos-175947020wpAs I wrote in my last blog on beans, they fit many of my requirements as a mom and dietitian. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive, and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Most of the time I use canned beans. They are very convenient and besides draining and rinsing, require no additional cooking. You can find ‘no salt added’ canned beans, which is great since many of us get more than enough sodium in our diets. And they usually don’t cost any more than the regular kind. If you’d rather not use the ‘no salt added’ kind, rinse the beans to reduce the sodium.

On occasion, I also like to cook dry beans. And some of my family and friends prefer to cook their own beans instead of using the canned versions. Canned beans are an inexpensive source of protein and when buying them dry, they are even less expensive. You might think that cooking dry beans is too much hassle if you haven’t tried it before. It does take time but most of that time you don’t have to stand over them while they cook. When I cook dry beans, I like to use the Slow Cooker Method.

Here are the steps to success:

  1. Spread 1 pound dried beans on a baking sheet and remove any small stones, dirt or withered beans.
  2. Put the beans in a strainer and rinse them under running water.
  3. Add beans and 8 cups of water to a slow cooker, then cook them on low for 6-8 hours until soft.
  4. Serve right away or freeze the beans in 1 ½ cup portions to use later. One and a half cups is about the amount in 1-15 ounce can of beans. How easy is that?!
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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Beans, Beans the Musical Fruit

ThinkstockPhotos-158913960There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.

  • Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
  • Chew beans well to help digest them.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
  • When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.

As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.

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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Eating protein foods on a budget

protein foods blogMy total is what?!? There has been a lot of sticker shock at the grocery store lately. Food prices in general have increased in the last couple of years, but meat prices have gotten a lot of attention lately. Foods from the Protein Foods Group are important sources of protein, iron, vitamins B and E, zinc and magnesium. Therefore, it’s necessary to determine how to fit them into your diet but stay within your food budget.

Here are four tips for including protein foods in your diet and staying within your budget:

  1. Use www.choosemyplate.gov to determine how much food you need from the Protein Foods Group. The amount needed for the average person is 5-6 ounces. If you’re eating meat, this is just about the size of two decks of cards. Most Americans consume much more than this. By not eating larger portions than you need, you can stay within your food budget.
  2.  Choose both animal and plant-based sources of protein. As seen by this chart, the cost of a serving of protein varies by type. Some protein foods like hot dogs are inexpensive, but also higher in fat and sodium than other protein foods. By including a variety of protein sources in your diet, you can enjoy the kinds of protein you prefer but balance the cost. Be sure to consider nutritional value along with cost when choosing what sources of protein to eat.
  3. Watch for sales at the grocery store. When meat your family enjoys is on sale, buy extra and put in your freezer for use at a later time.
  4. Choose recipes that help stretch protein foods. For more expensive sources of protein, use them in recipes that make them go further. Soups, casseroles, stir-fry, and salads combine meat and poultry with beans, grains, vegetables, and dairy to make more servings.

Common sources of protein foods that I eat include ground beef, chicken breast, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and nuts. Here are some of the dishes I like to prepare with protein foods:

Ground Beef

Tacos
Spaghetti
Skillet lasagna
Homemade pizza
Chili

Chicken Breast

Mexican Chicken Soup
Quick Pad Thai
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Enchiladas

Eggs

Scrambled Egg Muffins
Breakfast Burritos
Egg Sandwich

Beans

Mexican Chicken Soup
Chili
Make Ahead Mexican Rollups

According to MyPlate, I need 6 ounces of protein foods per day. If I eat an egg and cheese on an English muffin for breakfast, 2 servings (2 cups) of Mexican Chicken Soup for lunch, and a serving of Skillet Lasagna for supper, I will eat the 6 ounces of protein foods recommended for me. There will also be enough Mexican Chicken Soup and Skillet Lasagna for my family to eat and we will still have leftovers for another day.

Protein foods are necessary for good health. With some planning and some go-to recipes, you can eat your favorite protein foods and stick to your budget. Do you have a favorite trick for making meat go further? Share it on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart Facebook page.

Jodi Signature

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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Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce

pan fried tilapia

Growing up, we pretty much stuck to breaded fish sticks and squares and then for special occasions – shrimp cocktail. Once in a while my mom bought frozen fish and dipped it in egg and then cornmeal and fried it. As an adult, knowing fish was good for me (great protein plus low in calories and fat), I used to buy those frozen rectangles of raw fish, but prying frozen fillets apart was not fun.

Now I buy bags of individually frozen tilapia fillets. They come in packs (usually 2 or 3 pounds) that cost $2-3 per pound. I love that I can just pull out the number of fillets I need and defrost them.

This month’s featured recipe, Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce is delicious, easy and fast! You’ll want to have the table set and the rest of your meal ready to go when you start this. I usually serve it with a salad and frozen peas or broccoli. Sometimes I add brown rice.

Other kinds of fish work in this recipe also. Try it with domestic mahi-mahi, halibut or swai which is a white-flesh fish with a mild taste and light flaky texture. Swai is often less expensive than other kinds of fish.

Pan Fried Tilapia with Orange Sauce

Serving Size: 1 fillet of fish (about 3 ounces) | Serves: 4 | Cost Per Serving: $1.44

pan fried tilapia label

Ingredients: 

  • 4 small frozen tilapia fillets (about 1 pound total)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram or Italian seasoning
  • 1 orange

Instructions: 

  1. Defrost and pat dry tilapia with paper towel.
  2. Put flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a plastic bag. Add fillets one at a time and shake to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.
  4. Add fillets to skillet and fry until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn fish over, sprinkle with marjoram or Italian seasoning, and finish browning (heat fish to at least 165°F).
  5. Heat orange for 10 seconds in microwave. Cut in half. Squeeze half the juice and pulp from the orange on the fish. Use the other half for garnish.
  6. Place fish on a platter. Scrape the pan juices on top of the fish to serve.

Crispy Salmon Patties

I grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa.  My dad raised hogs, beef, soybeans and corn.  Guess how many times we had salmon when I was growing up.  That’s right,  NEVER.

Fresh, frozen and canned fish now is much more available and I enjoy it regularly.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week. Examples of fish relatively high in omega-3 fatty-acids include salmon, trout and herring.  In the last few years I started enjoying salmon, both frozen and canned.  At first I was dismayed by the appearance of canned salmon because the skin and bones were included, but now when the salmon is drained and combined with the other ingredients I don’t notice them.

Our Crispy Salmon Patties are very easy to make plus they are one of my “Go To” recipes (the ones you always keep the ingredients on hand and are fast).   When you make these try to move the patties as little as possible so they don’t break apart.  I freeze any leftovers and take them for lunch.  Besides providing great protein one salmon patty provides as much calcium as a glass of milk!

Crispy Salmon Patties

Serves: 6
Serving Size: 1 Patty
Per Serving: $.52

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14.75-ounce) can salmon, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread, shredded, or 5 crushed saltine crackers
  • 3 green onions, including the green stems, or 1/3 cup white onion, chopped fine (about 1/3 medium onion)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced, or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon seasoning (paprika, chili powder, or dill weed)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil or olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mash any cooked bones and skin in the salmon.  Break into chunks with fork.
  2. Break egg into a large bowl. Whisk with fork. Add salmon, bread or crackers, onion, garlic, pepper, and additional seasoning. Mix gently.
  3. Form into 6 patties about ½ inch thick.
  4. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Place patties in hot oil skillet. Leave skillet uncovered. Cook 3 minutes. Turn over patties with a spatula. Cook the other side 3-4 minutes to a temperature of 145° F.
  5. Serve immediately. Makes a good sandwich with whole wheat bread, tomato, lettuce, and onions.

http://recipes.extension.iastate.edu/2011/12/19/crispy-salmon-patties/

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