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Prairie Fare: How to Manage Splurges at Big-box Food Stores

Avocados are rich in nutrients. (Photo courtesy of Avocados are rich in nutrients. (Photo courtesy of
Extra calories from any source can lead to weight gain.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Are we going to buy a pallet of baked beans today?” my husband teased.

I grabbed the handle of the van-sized grocery cart and began strolling through the towers of food in the warehouse where food is sold in bulk quantities.

I put a large bag of avocados in my cart even though I had no immediate plans for at least 15 avocados. I had just walked by the vats of guacamole, so that whetted my appetite. My husband makes really good guacamole, so I was buying the ingredients to inspire him. Yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

The price tempted me, too.

Our two teens and preteen happily greeted us when we returned with boxes and bags of food. For teenagers with rapid-fire metabolism, the calories are manageable.

We parents, however, need to exercise some serious dietary restraint, even with foods that are healthful. Extra calories from any source can lead to weight gain.

For example, when I buy bread or muffins, I need to buy at least two to four packages at a time. When I buy the large sack of Russet potatoes, I can barely lift the bag into the cart, and the spuds are nearly the size of my head.

Avocados, potatoes and bread are rich in nutrients, by the way. However, we probably don’t need food service-sized quantities for a family of five. While unit prices may reveal that the price per ounce is lower for the larger quantity, the product may not be a great deal in the long run. Some of it may go to waste.

As we walk through the store, we also are tempted by large boxes and bags of snack foods, premade dinners and anything that can tempt our palate. I have learned to wheel past those items because we sometimes tire of the food before we eat all of it.

A recent economic analysis showed a statistical relationship between “big-box” stores and the obesity rates among the people who live nearby. People who live closer tend to weigh more.

However, this doesn’t mean the stores cause the weight issues. Other researchers have questioned whether those who are overweight already are more attracted to shopping at the big-box stores.

When you buy food in bulk, you may be likely to consume too many calories. To combat the temptation, consider putting the nonperishable foods out of sight instead of on the counter ready for snacking all day.

For example, if you buy the 5-pound bag of tortilla chips, you might want to split it into snack-sized portions in zip-top bags. Besides repackaging large amounts of food, consider freezing the excess. Or shop with a friend and divide the bargains.

What about those tempting avocados we bought? None went to waste. We ate a lot of guacamole that week. By the way, if you want to try the guacamole recipe my husband uses, search for “Chef Alton Brown guacamole” on the Internet and enjoy. It’s from the Food Network.

In case you buy some avocados, consider this information: Avocados contain more fat and calories than other fruits and vegetables. However, the type of fat in avocados primarily is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which are heart-healthy. Avocados contain a trace amount of saturated fat and no trans fat. One-fourth cup of pureed avocado has about 96 calories, 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber.

Avocados can be peeled like other fruits and vegetables. Or if you want diced avocado, you can try another technique to avoid slippery hands. Simply rinse the avocado thoroughly with water, then cut the avocado in half lengthwise, going around the big seed.

Then set the avocado on a cutting board, seed end up, and hit the seed with the sharp end of a knife, keeping your hands away. Next, pull the seed from the avocado with the knife or carefully twist the seed.

To slice it, hold the avocado in your hand flesh end up and slice long cuts to the skin but not through. To make cubes, cut crosswise, again not cutting through the skin. Finally, using a spoon, scoop the diced avocado out.

Keep in mind that avocados oxidize (turn brown) in the presence of oxygen, so be ready to use the avocado as soon as you prepare it. You can sprinkle the surface with lemon or lime juice to counteract the oxidation.

Besides guacamole, consider adding some slices to salads or sandwiches or even eggs. This tasty recipe was a hit in a recent recipe test done by my students. For more tempting recipes, visit and click on “recipes.”

Avocado Egg Scramble

2 eggs

4 egg whites

2 Tbsp. reduced-fat, shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. avocado, chopped

1 c. bell peppers (red, green or yellow), diced

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. chili powder

Spray medium skillet with nonstick cooking spray. In skillet over medium heat, add diced bell peppers and cook one to two minutes, until softened. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites with eggs. Add eggs to diced peppers and scramble eggs. Sprinkle salt, black pepper and chili powder on eggs during cooking. Add in diced avocado pieces and top with reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with a side of salsa.

Note: You can substitute two additional eggs for the egg whites, but the amount of fat will increase.

Makes four servings. Each serving contains 130 calories, 9 grams (g) fat, 9 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 270 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - April 23, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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