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Is There a Nutritional Upside to a Down Economy?

Being Portion-Wise with Your Serving Size Can Help Your Wallet and Waistline

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Can you trim your waistline and grocery bill at the same time? Both a registered dietitian and a "Kitchen Coach" think so and offer an array of recipe ideas and tips for an upside to a down economy.

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As a general guide, Pat Groziak, a registered dietitian and senior lead nutrition manager for Unilever, recommends filling half of your plate with vegetables, one-fourth with a complex carbohydrate, such as pasta or rice, and one-fourth with protein for a better-balanced, calorie-controlled meal.

"With this approach, you'll get the health benefits from the nutrient-rich vegetables while helping to easily manage weight and caloric intake," says Groziak. Cutting down on serving sizes is also a way to cut costs for more expensive grocery items, such as meat, fish or poultry, while putting healthier portions on the dinner table.

"An easy way to determine how much meat or fish to consume is to compare your portion to the size of a deck of cards, which is about a three-ounce cooked serving. By being portion-wise with each serving size, you have the added benefit of keeping calories under control," Groziak added.

Jennifer Bushman, author of the "Kitchen Coach" cookbook series, has a few tips to help keep your family portion-wise and save money at the grocery store.

"Take a few minutes and plan a week's worth of lunches and dinners ahead of time. That way, you stick to your shopping list and be precise about the amount -- or weight -- of items you need, so food doesn't spoil or you don't end up stocking your pantry with items you don't need," says Bushman.

"Also, keep an eye on your circular when buying anything from higher ticket items, like meat or produce, to pantry staples. It'll help you save money and time in the grocery store," adds Bushman.

Here are more tips and ideas to be portion-wise with your serving size:

  • Groziak also recommends that to take on a new behavior it's easier to make "simple switches" with better-for-you options that don't sacrifice flavor or quality and still enable you to enjoy the foods you love. One simple switch Groziak suggests is opting for Hellmann's(R) or Best Foods(R) Light Mayonnaise, which has great taste, and only half the calories and fat of Hellmann's(R) or Best Foods(R) Real Mayonnaise. A simple sandwich or wrap, like a Chicken and Avocado Wrap, made using 100% whole grain bread or wrap, also has added benefits of fiber.
  • For a family staple -- pasta night -- Groziak offers tips to 'right-size' portions and get kids to eat their veggies. "A half-cup serving of cooked pasta is roughly the size of a cupped palm. And many-a-kid's favorite, Ragu(R) pasta sauces, like their Old World Style(R) Margherita, have a full serving of vegetables in every half-cup of sauce."
  • Another quick change is to opt for Wish-Bone(R) Light Italian Dressing as a calorie-saving option as it has 60 percent fewer calories and 75 percent less fat than the original, but is still full of flavor. Try this substitution when creating a classic favorite like a Tuna Nicoise Salad. "When building a meal that includes higher ticket items, like fruits and vegetables, look for what's in season -- it'll not only be less expensive, but it'll help to naturally add more flavor and require less ingredients to make it," explains Bushman. To eyeball your serving size, keep in mind that a one-cup serving of potatoes is about the size of your fist.
  • As a nutritionist and dietitian, Groziak knows the importance of limiting trans and saturated fats in your diet because they can increase your cholesterol. One way she recommends is using a soft spread, like I Can't Believe it's Not Butter!(R), instead of butter. It has 70 percent less saturated fat, no trans fat per serving(1) and the fresh butter taste you love!
  • Getting more for your money can mean added nutritional benefits from everyday foods, according to Groziak. For example, Shedd's Spread Country Crock(R) Calcium plus Vitamin D contains 10 percent of your daily value for calcium and 20 percent of daily value of Vitamin D.
  • One of the "Kitchen Coach" Jennifer Bushman's recommendations is to substitute one vegetarian meal a week. To create a budget-wise vegetarian alternative, black beans can be a tasty substitute for chicken to create a Cheddar Pasta and Vegetable Dinner using Knorr(R) Sides Plus(TM) Veggies, which have two servings of veggies in every pouch. "Packed with protein and fiber, black beans are inexpensive and a great source of iron, magnesium and folic acid that help increase the nutritional value of the meal. A little goes a long way," adds Groziak, "a one-half cup serving is roughly the size of a light bulb."

Making small changes to recipe favorites and incorporating healthier eating strategies to your everyday meals can keep families eating better year-round. For more recipe ideas and tips, visit

    Prep Time: 25 minutes

    1 lb. penne pasta, cooked and drained
    1 jar (1 lb. 10 oz.) Ragu(R) Old World Style(R) Margherita Smooth Pasta
    Sauce, heated
    4 ounces pepperoni, sliced or cubed (optional)
    1 lb. mozzarella cheese, cubed or shredded
    1/4 cup thinly sliced loosely packed fresh basil leaves

    Toss all ingredients in a large serving bowl.

    Prep Time: 20 minutes     Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Marinate Time: 30 minutes

    1 cup Wish-Bone(R) Light Italian Dressing
    1 lb. tuna or salmon steaks or 2 cans (6 oz. ea.) tuna, drained and flaked
    12 ounces potatoes, unpeeled and cubed (about 2-1/2 cups)
    8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved (about 2-1/2 cups)
    8 cups mesclun or mixed salad greens
    2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
    1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
    1/2 cup pitted kalamata or ripe olives, halved

    In large, shallow nonaluminum baking dish or plastic bag, pour 1/4 cup
    Wish-Bone(R) (Light) Italian Dressing over tuna; turn to coat. Cover, or
    close bag, and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring
    to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add
    green beans and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes or until potatoes
    are tender and green beans are crisp-tender; drain. Toss warm potatoes
    and green beans with 1/4 cup dressing.

    Remove tuna from marinade, discarding marinade. Grill or broil tuna,
    turning once and brushing frequently with remaining 1/4 cup Dressing, 8
    minutes or until tuna is desired doneness.

    On serving platter, arrange salad greens. Top with eggs, tomato, sliced
    tuna and olives. Drizzle with remaining Dressing.

    Also terrific with Wish-Bone(R) Robusto Italian Dressing.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    3 Tbsp. Hellmann's(R) or Best Foods(R) Light Mayonnaise
    4 (6-in.) fajita size whole wheat flour tortillas
    12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
    1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced
    1 red bell pepper, sliced
    1/4 cup sliced red onion
    2 cups mixed salad greens

    Spread It: Spread Hellmann's(R) or Best Foods(R) Light Mayonnaise on

    Stuff It: Layer chicken, avocado, red pepper, red onion and salad greens
    down center of each tortilla.

    Wrap It: Roll and fold the filled tortilla.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes     Cook Time: 6 minutes

    2 Tbsp. Shedd's Spread Country Crock(R) Calcium plus Vitamin D
    1-1/2 cups sliced carrots
    1 large red bell pepper, sliced
    1 cup broccoli florets
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

    Melt Shedd's Spread Country Crock(R) Calcium plus Vitamin D in 12-inch
    nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook carrots, red pepper and
    broccoli, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in
    garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in parsley and heat through. Season with
    salt and black pepper.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes     Cook Time: 20 minutes

    1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
    2 Tbsp. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! (R) Spread
    1 small tomato, chopped
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1-3/4 cups water
    1/2 cup milk
    1 package Knorr(R) Sides Plus(TM) Veggies - Cheddar Cheese Pasta with Broccoli
    & Carrots

    Cook chicken with Spread in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat
    5 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken and set

    Cook tomato in same skillet 3 minutes. Stir in 1 clove chopped garlic;
    cook 30 seconds.

    Stir in water and milk; bring to a boil. Stir in Cheddar Cheese Pasta.
    Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, 9 minutes. Stir in chicken; heat

    Substitute black beans as an alternative to chicken to make a vegetarian

(1) Contains 8 g. fat, 2g. saturated fat per serving

About Unilever

Unilever's mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Each day, around the world, consumers make 160 million decisions to purchase Unilever products.

In the United States, the portfolio includes major brand icons such as: Axe, Ben & Jerry's, Bertolli, Breyers, Caress, Country Crock, Degree, Dove personal care products, Hellmann's, Klondike, Knorr, Lipton, Popsicle, Promise, Q-Tips, Skippy, Slim-Fast, Suave, Sunsilk and Vaseline. All of the preceding brand names are registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies. Dedicated to serving consumers and the communities where we live, work and play, Unilever employs nearly 12,000 people in both the United States and Puerto Rico - generating nearly $10 billion in sales in 2008. For more information, visit

    Gillian Kushner

SOURCE Unilever
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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