What’s in Your Grocery Cart?

Photo by Dodgerton Skillhause courtesy of morguefile.com

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone peering into my grocery cart. Then the person said something to me.“I was just checking to see what you put in your cart,” she said with a grin.

I think she recognizes me as a nutrition specialist, I thought to myself.

My brain did a scan of people I had met in my life. Was this someone from work? Was this someone from my hometown I haven’t seen in a long time? Does she read a paper that runs my picture with this column?

She gathered from my blank expression that I didn’t recognize her. She helped me by saying, “I recognize you from a workshop you presented.”

I nodded and said, “I think I am doing pretty well with my food selections today.” I did a quick scan of the contents of my grocery cart to verify my comment.

I admit that I look in other people’s grocery carts on occasion as they go through the checkout in front of me. Sometimes I am surprised by the number of boxes of convenience foods, bags of chips and bottles of soda pop I see.

I bite my tongue and say nothing.

When your job is to help people recognize healthy food selections and handle them safely, you feel compelled to follow your own advice. You feel a little guilty when you do not.

I looked closely at my groceries. Because I had been recognized, was I setting a good example?

My cart contained fat-free milk, a bag of fresh spinach, can of pumpkin, loaf of bread and an angel food cake mix. I would have rated quite well on a “nutrition meter” if such a thing existed.

However, had I been spotted a couple of days before, my nutrition-meter rating would have been questionable. I had three packages of cookies and, on the positive side, a gallon of milk in my cart. That time, the cashier asked me if I had enough milk for all the cookies.

I shared the cookies with many people, by the way. They were on sale, too.

People are doing more cooking at home these days because prices have increased, and cooking at home provides substantial savings and the opportunity to cook more healthful meals.

Planning meals in advance and preparing a shopping list is one of the best ways to maximize your time and effort.

When planning meals, mix up your plate with different textures, colors, shapes, sizes and temperatures each day. Incorporate a wide variety of foods from all the food groups into your meals. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to try the new menu planner tool.

The evening menu I had planned included ham, baked potatoes, corn, spinach salad, pumpkin cake and milk. Our plates would be colorful and nutrient-rich. A colorful plate is a good indicator that you are getting a variety of nutrients and a balance of each of the food groups.

Consider these tips to maximize your time and nutrition:

  • Plan your menus a week at a time. To save money, use store ads as a basis for your menu plans.
  • Read your recipes and menus to see what you need.
  • Check your shelves and refrigerator for items you already have.
  • Make a grocery list and keep it on your refrigerator so you can add items as you need them.

With the angel food cake mix and can of pumpkin in my cart, I made this easy recipe based on one I received from a friend in an email. For more information about nutrition, check out www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart

Easy Pumpkin Cake

1 can pumpkin
1 c. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 box angel food cake mix (one-step)
Whipped cream/topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix pumpkin, water, vanilla and spices. (You can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice for the listed spices.) Gently stir in angel food cake mix. Pour into a 9- by 13-inch pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Makes 12 servings. Without whipped cream, each serving has 140 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 250 milligrams of sodium.

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