Milk and Nutrition Economics Can Save You and Your Budget

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Measuring The Cost of The Food

Learning how to identify and measure the cost of the food you eat could actually be good for your budget, and milk should be part of it, according to a newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

According to the report, “expensive” really depends on how you measure cost. An inexpensive food that provides few nutrients may be “expensive” for a consumer like you, while food with higher retail price that provides large amounts of nutrients may be of great value when you consider health cost and added benefits.

Watching Our Budgets

“We’re all watching our budgets these days,” says Michelle Dudash, registered dietitian and author of the upcoming, Clean Eating for Busy Families. “But there are important health and nutrition trade-offs that we need to consider. The truth is, Americans need a crash course in ‘Nutrition Economics.'”

When you learn how to compare the cost per nutrients as you search for nutrient-rich food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and milk, you don’t only save your money, but it can affect your health in the long run.

A New Way to Shop

“We need to change our mindset and learn a new way to shop,” says Dudash. “It’s not just about the dollar value of the food, but it’s about the full value the food offers.”

Dudash emphasizes that Nutrition Economics doesn’t mean making everything from scratch. “[Nutrition Economics] means doing a little advance work in knowing what you’re buying,” she says. “The pay-off will return to you in lower grocery bills and delicious, but healthy eating.”

One of the ways of doing so, Dudash suggests, is to opt for in-season vegetables to keep your greens’ cost down, buying staples like whole grain cereals in bulk and really looking at you get for your dollar in the dairy aisle. This can help you manage your budget when it comes to healthy essentials which are very important especially during economic downturns.

A Recent National Poll

In fact, and according to a recent national poll, 50 percent of women shoppers say the cost of healthy food is what keeps them from eating healthy.

If that’s the case, then how do you deal with it? Perhaps it would help if you try answering this question: Is an inexpensive, but nutrient-void, soda really worth the cost or is that food dollar better spent elsewhere?

If still that doesn’t make sense to you, let’s look at beverages. When it comes to getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, beverages are often overlooked. Drinks can be a large part of a family’s food budget and poor drink choices can negatively affect your grocery bill and the nutritional value of your meal.

Experts advise limiting the sugary, nutrient-void drinks and instead encourages you to go for low-fat or fat-free milk or water during meals.

Milk’s Nutrition

Let’s take the case of milk. Milk cost just 25 cents a glass, and provides 9 essential nutrients we all need, including calcium and vitamin D and potassium. Even some of the beverages that are manufactured to mimic milk’s nutrition, often cost nearly twice as much as milk and just don’t stand up when it comes to value for your dollar. Plus, milk provides high quality protein with 2 to 7 more grams of protein compared to soy, almond or coconut drinks, which helps keeps you feeling full so you’re less likely to grab a snack.

In fact, substituting milk with other calcium sources like a fortified soy drink or fortified orange juice can increase diet costs and can lead to gaps in calcium along with other key nutrients like protein, phosphorus and B vitamins, according to research.

And not only do Americans love the taste of milk (it’s in nearly all U.S. refrigerators), they prefer it to some of the other milk “imitators” found in the dairy aisle, like soy and almond beverages, according to a recent nationally representative survey.

Penny for Penny

“Penny for penny, ounce for ounce, milk delivers more nutrition than just about any drink,” says Dudash. “There really is no good substitute for milk in our diets. Milk is one of the most economical sources of protein and an extremely cost-efficient source of calcium.”