Those who follow this blog already know that we’ve been taking a walk around the periphery of the grocery store. This is where you will find the freshest and least processed foods.
Over the last couple of weeks, we toured the produce and meat sections of my local Albertson’s store. Today, we’re taking a look at the dairy section for some brown bag ideas.
Just to clarify: “Dairy” will include the milk, butter, egg, and cheese section of my store. Keep in mind that we’ll be reviewing items that are pre-packaged with nutritional labeling. I would strongly suggest that whenever you consider a food item for purchase, review available nutritional labeling. This is especially important for those of us who have special needs concerning fat content, sugar content, and salt content. You might be surprised at what you find!
Eggs. Let’s take a look at the egg section, typically located near the dairy items. I would like to point out that most of these sections now offer hard boiled, peeled eggs for use in sandwiches, salads, and other dishes.
We have some tradeoffs here. As you can see, six pre-peeled, pre-cooked hard boiled eggs cost some money. Or, you can pay a little less and spend some time boiling and peeling eggs yourself. We’ll discuss recipes with eggs in later blogs.
Cheese. Cheese is a great high protein, high calcium food which can be used for snacks or main meals. Nowadays, cheese is packaged in single-serving, pre-wrapped portions. Very convenient for the brownbagger looking for a easy way to transport food.
Let’s take a look at some nutritional labeling. I’ve found that mozzarella cheese tends to have a lower fat content, especially lite mozzarella:
Please note that one serving (one stick) contains 2.5 grams of fat, with 1.5 grams being saturated. (For people like me who need to watch cholesterol, saturated fat can be a problem.)
Compare the fat content of the mozzarella pictured above with a bag of individually wrapped full-fat Cheddar cheese:
Wow….One stick of Cheddar has almost three times the fat content of the mozzarella, and twice as much cholesterol. Also, it has one gram less of protein than the mozzarella. One plus is that the sodium content is slightly lower than the mozzarella.
Milk. I’ve brown-bagged cold cereal and milk more than once to work. I like cow’s milk very much, but it affects my digestive system in a bad way. And then there’s that cholesterol issue. Fortunately, there are lots of plant-based milk products that are typically sold in grocery stores. For example:
- Soy milk. Soy milk contains a relatively high amount of protein and calcium. Because it’s plant-based, it does not contain cholesterol. In addition, most soy milk is enriched with Vitamin D (just like cow’s milk).
- Almond milk. Almond milk does not contain as much protein as soy milk. However, it does contain calcium as well as Vitamin E and is also usually enriched with Vitamin D.
- Oat milk. For those who are allergic to soy and nuts, oat milk might be an alternative. Like other plant-based milk, it is enriched with calcium and Vitamin D.
Please note that if you have food allergies, you should always ask your doctor about alternatives to cow and nut milk before purchase.
Yogurt. There are two types of yogurt on the market: European-style, which is rather liquidy, and Greek yogurt, which has a consistency like sour cream. Yogurt is a convenient alternative to milk, it’s easy to pack and carry to work, and it makes a delicious breakfast food. But watch out! Many flavored yogurts contain lots of added sugar. Let’s take a look at the nutritional label for one flavored yogurt I found at Albertsons:
This is a pretty tasty brand; I’ve had it before. The protein and calcium content are both good. But look at the sugar content: 21 grams per serving (5.5 oz.). The product also contains 6 grams of saturated fat and 25 mg. of cholesterol per serving.
In contrast, let’s take a look at a plain yogurt product:
The brand we’re now looking at is Strauss Creamery Non-Fat Yogurt (European style), the tastiest non-fat yogurt I’ve ever had. Their full-fat yogurt is just….dreamy. It’s the one non-fat yogurt that is made solely from milk product, without the non-dairy thickeners typically used in other non-fat yogurts. Strauss is usually sold at Sprouts and Whole Foods, but at least one other Albertson’s in Yorba Linda carries it. By the way, you can request specific brands through your local supermarket manager.
Take a look at the specs: One 8 oz serving contains no fat, only 10 mg. cholesterol, half the sugar of the brand we previously looked at, more calcium, more protein….From a nutritional standpoint, this product is superior.
But what about that sour taste? Well, you can add some Stevia or other sweetener to your yogurt, as well as strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries. I’m especially fond of chopped mango and yogurt; they go really well together.
I’d like to leave you with one last recipe that includes foods from the produce department, meat counter, and dairy section. This hearty stew freezes well and carries well in a thermos for brown bag eating:
SOUTHWEST PUMPKIN AND CHICKEN STEW (3-4 servings)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
- 1 pound cubed uncooked skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes.
- 1 cup (3 stalks) chopped celery, chopped
- 1/2 cup medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 15 ounce can of solid packed pumpkin
- 1 15 ounce can chicken broth
- 1/2 cup sour cream, warmed to room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- Juice of one lemon
1. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil.
2. Add the next five ingredients and saute for five minutes.
3. Add everything else, except for the lemon juice, and mix well.
4. Heat until the mixture is bubbling. Lower to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Mix in lemon juice to finish. This dish is very good with cornbread.
NEXT WEEK: Walking the Periphery: A Trip Through the Grocery Store–Part 4