Staples such as milk, sweet potatoes, beans, oatmeal and fruits like oranges, tangerines, apples and bananas can be easily purchased for less than a dollar per serving and are considered nutrient-rich Super Foods, offering multiple nutrients while providing great health benefits with minimal calories.
For example, a can of soda could cost up to $1 and has no nutritional value. But it's possible to get four, eight-ounce cups of skim milk for that same dollar -- while getting nine essential nutrients including Vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, muscles, teeth, hair and nails.
"While junk foods may seem really convenient and affordable, you don't want to make them the basis of your diet because they don't offer a lot of nutritional bang for your buck," said Ashley Rosales, registered dietitian from the Dairy Council.
The USDA's My Plate nutrition guide released last year recommends that families' meals consist of at least half fruits and vegetables, a small portion of whole grains and lean proteins, topped off with dairy, such as a glass of low fat or nonfat milk. Other foods 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 A and C, which can promote proper growth and improve the immune system. Many fruits 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 infection. Nutrient-rich lean proteins for about a dollar include eight servings of beans or one 4-ounce serving of chicken breast.
"If families pay close attention to what they add to their grocery baskets, they'll find ways to really stretch their dollar and easily purchase authentic, wholesome, nutrient-rich foods without breaking the budget," Rosales said.
To help spread the nutritious word, "Got milk?" and Dairy Council of California will be visiting select Boys & Girls Clubs in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento to educate young people about nutrient-rich foods and how to incorporate them into their meals. Studies show that the earlier children know about making informed food choices, the better equipped they are to practicing a healthy lifestyle.
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