Guest Post: My Daughter, Caroline

Monday, October 8, 2012 at 07:15 AM

Today, I welcome a very special guest blogger:  my seven-year-old daughter Caroline!

Caroline has been contributing to this blog for over half her life.  When she’s not going to second grade, she loves to cook, to take ballet and to take art classes.  This fall, she won a prize in a regional art show and she will be part of the children’s cast in the December production of State Ballet of Rhode Island’s Coppelia.  She’s a busy girl – and I’m one proud Mom.  A couple of weeks ago, while my husband and I were away celebrating our 15th anniversary, my Mom took Caroline on a culinary tour of Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island’s Italian neighborhood.  Chef Cindy Salvato  (who is a reader of A Better Bag of Groceries) runs these fabulous 3-hour tours called Savoring Rhode Island which take you behind the scenes of the bustling Federal Hill district.  You meet the chefs, the ravioli makers, the bakers.  You get tips and advice for your Italian cooking.  Caroline loved it, so that is her blog topic today.  To write this blog (since Caroline is, after all, only in 2nd grade), I showed her Grandma’s photos that I would use and she wrote little notes for each photo. 

So, without further ado, I give you Caroline!

My Grandma took me on a food tour of Federal Hill.  It’s in Providence, Rhode Island.  We went with some of my Grandma’s friends.  There was another girl on the tour.  Her name is Connie.

I learned about the label on this pasta.  My Grandma let me wear that bracelet.  Isn’t it pretty?

This picture was inside the bakery.  It was really cool.  The man you see in the back made beautiful flowers out of frosting.

We got to make flowers for the cupcakes too!

This was the only store I didn’t eat at.  The fresh poultry store.  The chickens were funny.  They were trying to get away!

The food tour was great.  I came home with a cookbook, some new recipes and cookies!

Next time, I want to bring my Mom.

Thanks to Caroline for sharing this post, perfect for this Christopher Columbus Day!

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Guest Blogger: Minnesota SpokesMom, Kelly Radi

Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 07:20 AM

Today I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post by NuVal SpokesMom Kelly Radi.


Kelly’s story is proof that you really can get your dream job!  Back in 2010, Kelly, a Mom in Minnesota, was very excited to see her local grocery store put NuVal  scores on their shelves.  The NuVal scores helped her to make wiser, healthier food decisions and she saw changes in her family as a result.  Good changes.  Her daughter dropped two jeans sizes in two months!  And her husband lost weight too.  Kelly was so passionate about NuVal that she became a volunteer spokeswoman for Coborn’s and for CentraCare’s BLEND (Better Living through Exercise and Nutrition Daily).    At NuVal, we have photos of Kelly all over the place.  I stand next to a ginormous blow-up of Kelly when I represent NuVal at trade shows and she even starred in a video that we produced showing how much consumers love NuVal.  Kelly was such a great spokeswoman for NuVal that she is now getting paid to do it.  Just recently, Kelly accepted a position to work for BLEND as their NuVal Spokesmom and Program Specialist – her dream job.  She gets paid to meet new people and talk about food and nutrition. In Kelly’s words, “Yes, I get paid to talk about food!”  She makes trips to Coborn’s grocery stores to educate store employees and shoppers, presents to civic groups, schools, and organizations, and she writes bi-weekly blogs for BLEND and the Coborn’s Blog site.  So today, I’m turning the keyboard over to the super-capable hands of Kelly Radi!  Here’s Kelly…


I recently read a statistic that said the average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.  Yes, thirty-eight.  I’m guessing meaningful conversation does not include me hollering downstairs, “Remember to bring your laundry up!”

At first, I thought that 38.5 minutes couldn’t possibly be a reality for our family, but then I started thinking about the past two weeks at our house.  I’m a mom of two active teenagers.  Since school started, their evenings have been filled with homework, tennis matches, Wednesday night church activities, back-to-school parties and a weekend-long church retreat.

When the busy-ness of life starts to get in the way, I feel the need to re-group and anchor my family.  The best way I know to do this is to sit down and share a meal together.  Often, we end up sharing much more than a meal.  We slow down and reconnect.  We get to hear what our girls are doing, thinking and feeling.  For some reason, they’re much more willing to share this information when holding a fork.

More than a decade of research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) has consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.  Another CASA study reports that eating dinner as a family helps kids get better grades and better nutrition. Studies like these inspired Family Dinner Night, a national movement launched in 2001, to remind parents that frequent family dinners can be an effective tool in raising healthy, responsible young adults.  I see it as a place for our kids to learn so many life skills:  sharing, table manners, respect, nutrition, compromise.  The dinner table is a place to nourish their bodies as well as their spirit.

I have a friend who takes her family dinner conversations a step further.  After they say their dinner prayer, each family member gets to share a “high” and a “low” from their day.  A high might be a good grade on a quiz.  A low might be seeing another child be bullied.  Both highs and lows stimulate some amazing dinner table dialogue.   While we don’t specifically share highs and lows at our house, I do have some family dinner “rules” that apply every night.  No TV and no cell phones.  Dinner time is when we disengage from screens and engage with each other.

This year, BLEND and Coborn’s, Inc. are once again joining efforts to celebrate National Family Dinner Night on Sunday, September 23, 2012. To encourage area families to participate, Coborn’s had an easy-to-prepare Chicken Sausage Spaghetti recipe.   We decided to kick off our week with this recipe and a sit-down family dinner.

My husband grilled the sausages (not yet NuVal scored) while the girls and I prepared the sauce and pasta. I love the added fresh veggies–onions (NuVal score of 93), carrots (NuVal score of 99) and garlic (NuVal score of 91) — to the jarred tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.  While the recipe called for Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (NuVal score of 42), I opted to use Food Club Italian Style Diced Tomatoes (NuVal score of 58).  That was my trade-up for this recipe.  We used Barilla Spaghetti (NuVal score of 61) because that is what we had in the pantry.  However, you can easily trade up by using Food Club Whole Wheat Pasta (NuVal score of 91) to get a little more bang for your buck.


We kept it simple with a side salad of greens and veggies.  For dessert, we had a sweet and juicy fresh pineapple (NuVal score of 99).  While eating, we got to hear all about the church retreat from our girls…the games, the friends, the fun, the worship, the food, the bus ride…in great detail.  And, for the record, it lasted longer than 38 minutes.

What do you do to make family dinner night special?  A favorite meal?  A traditional prayer?  Please comment and share.

Enjoy your dinner! Kelly

Blog Post Courtesy of Kelly and BLEND.



Posted by: Melissa 2 comments

Posted in: Guest Bloggers, NuVal Moms

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Guest Post: What does a dietitian eat?

Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 07:17 AM

It’s National Nutrition Month! To kick off my celebration here at A Better Bag of Groceries, today I’m featuring a guest post from one our most enthusiastic retailer dietitians, Kaitlin Anderson. 

Kaitlin does a fantastic job of telling you all about herself, her job and her family in this post, so I will let her take it from here.  Here’s Kaitlin!

“What does a dietitian eat?”  This is one of the most popular questions I hear in the grocery store.  “Seriously, just tell me what you buy!”  I work full-time as a supermarket dietitian at Hy-Vee in Rochester, Minnesota.  But I am also a wife and the proud mom of a 13-month old little boy, Owen.  So, needless to say, dinner is a little chaotic at our house.  But, with lots of planning and a hint of creativity, I can successfully feed my family a healthy meal…quickly!

Last night’s dinner was tacos.  But, as a dietitian and huge NuVal fan, I am constantly tweaking recipes and trading-up for healthier ingredients in meals.  Follow along for an exciting new look at tacos.

We started with 93% lean ground beef (NuVal score of 30) but added bulk and nutrients to the meat mixture with red bell pepper (NuVal score of 96), yellow onion (NuVal score of 93) and a can of black beans (NuVal score of 55) (drained and rinsed to decrease the  sodium).  We seasoned the meat mixture with one packet of Hy-Vee’s “30% less sodium” taco seasoning.



While my husband monitored the meat mixture, I assembled a simple, homemade salsa: fresh tomatoes (NuVal score of 96), yellow onion (NuVal score of 93), cilantro (NuVal score of 96) and lime juice.  A basic jar of salsa gets a NuVal score of 14 because of the added sodium.  No salt in my recipe, but don’t worry, it’s not lacking in flavor!

Then I scooped out a fresh avocado (NuVal score of 89) while my husband washed up the lettuce.  Instead of shredded iceberg (NuVal score of 82), we traded up for green leaf lettuce (NuVal score of 100).

Now, the cooking was complete.  Time to set the table.  Instead of sour cream (NuVal score of  23), we traded up for plain Greek yogurt instead (NuVal score of 36).  Instead of white flour tortillas (NuVal score of 2), we made big taco salads and added crunch with Food Should Taste Good® multigrain tortilla chips (NuVal score of 43).


I kept MyPlate ( ) in mind as we dished up: ¼ protein (taco meat/bean mixture), ¼ grains (multigrain chips), ½ fruits/veggies (tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, onion, cilantro, lime) and a serving of dairy (cheese, Greek yogurt).

Final thoughts:

Owen: “YUM!  I love tacos!” (He can’t talk yet, but this is what his face—and his plate—said. )

Mommy: “Delicious and nutritious!” (Typical dietitian comment.)

Daddy: “So simple but really flavorful!”  (And this is coming from the man who adds hot sauce and ranch dressing to everything!)

In the end, our family had a fresh, healthy meal on the table within thirty minutes.  Thanks to NuVal, trading up with tacos was easy!

Kaitlin Anderson, RD, LD

Posted by: Melissa 11 comments

Posted in: Guest Bloggers, Hy-vee

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Guest Post: Kim From Living Domestically

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 07:17 AM

One of my favorite parts of my job as NuVal’s Mom-Blogger is that I get to meet a whole bunch of other bloggers!  Kim lives out in Colorado, shops at King Soopers and she has a great blog called Living Domestically where she is learning to live a healthy life, one mile, one meal, and one day at at time.  Kim was a lucky Trade-Up Tuesday winner here at A Better Bag of Groceries recently.  She most graciously accepted my offer to write a guest post for all of you.  So, without further ado, I give you Kim!


Last year, I moved out on my own for the first time since college (I lived at home post-college).  One thing I had to learn was how to effectively budget my money.  One thing I have always struggled with was sticking to my food budget, while still making healthy choices.  Has anyone else noticed how coupons really only exist for processed, unhealthy foods?  I will happily purchase the “damaged” produce if it means I can get it at a steal of a price.

I remember watching an ABC News piece last year, where they were investigating the effects of the economy on the food that we eat.  They indicated that while the total product cost might not have changed, the package size was shrinking.  Manufacturers were changing product packaging to decrease the amount of product, while fooling the consumers to think they were still buying the same amount of product.  The theory is that consumers comparison shop based on the overall product price, with little regard to how much product they were actually purchasing.

This is when I began to notice the little boxes on the product price labels that indicate the unit price.  This is how the overall product price is determined.  If something costs 50 cents per ounce and you’re buying 8 ounces of it, then the products costs $4.00.

I usually shop at King Soopers and was thrilled to find out that the NuVal scoring system was being used throughout the store.  It was going to make my shopping trips a little less hectic when brand comparison shopping for nutritional content and product price.  For the longest time I was against store-brand products because I thought that they were less healthy for you (there had to be a reason it’s so much cheaper!).  But with the NuVal scores available, I was quick to learn that sometimes the store-brand products are just as healthy, if not healthier, AND much cheaper.  A win-win if you ask me.

The other day, I wanted to make a Broccoli-Cheese-Rice Casserole for dinner.  I opted for brown rice since it is nutritionally better for you than white rice.  Brown rice scores an 82, white rice scores a 57.  As I was comparing three brands of brown rice, I was shocked to see how much the price varied between Uncle Ben’s, Riceland, and Kroger-Brand Brown Rice (keep in mind that the Kroger Brand rice is a 1 lb bag vs. the 2lb bags of Uncle Bens/Riceland).



According to the pricing labels, the NuVal score for each bag of rice was the same…a score of 82.  Regardless of which bag I chose, I was going to get the same nutritional benefits.  Next, I looked at the unit price.

Uncle Bens:  15.3 cents per ounce

Riceland:  9.34 cents per ounce

Kroger:  5.19 cents per ounce

I could buy 3 times the amount of Kroger Brand rice for the same price as the Uncle Ben’s rice.  RIDICULOUS!  So it was a no brainer that I walked away with the Kroger Brand rice.  I saved myself at least $1.33 by choosing the store-brand version over the pricey name brand products.

So the next time you’re in the supermarket and you want to save yourself a couple bucks—take a look at the unit prices.  You’ll be shocked to see how much the price varies between brands.  And if the NuVal scoring system is included, you’ll be a better comparison shopper.  Sometimes it might be worth the extra money to get a healthier product.  But be careful—sometimes the unit pricing is NOT the same for all products.  For example, sometimes you might see some drinks listed with unit prices in ounces and others in pints.  Be ready to know how to convert the unit pricing into similar units for easy comparison shopping.

It’s Melissa again!  Great advice, Kim.  Thanks for sharing. I think it’s time to start teaching my kids about unit price.

Question of the Day

Do you look at unit price when you shop?

Posted by: Melissa 8 comments

Posted in: Guest Bloggers, King Soopers

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Guest Blogger: Lydia from Sartell High School

Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 07:18 AM

Today, I have a great guest post by Lydia Dullinger, a senior at Sartell High School in Sartell, Minnesota.  On January 18th, 2012, BLEND (Better Living Exercise and Nutrition Daily) launched the NuVal® Nutritional Scoring System in the a la carte lines and vending machines at Sartell-St. Stephen Schools. This groundbreaking project will assist students and faculty to make healthier food choices on a daily basis.  Lydia is blogging about her experiences with NuVal® in schools.  Lydia is a great blogger – and wait until you see these amazing youtube videos that the AV Club is putting together.  It’s so amazing to see these high school students all excited about NuVal and healthy foods.  So, without further ado, here’s Lydia!

NuVal is here!!! At 8:30 Wednesday morning, members of Student Council gathered in front of the doors in the school armed with balloons, apples, and stickers.

Our mission? To greet our peers NuVal-style!  Incoming students were surprised and pretty jacked about getting free things, if not a little overwhelmed!  Everyone was so into NuVal, the enthusiasm was infectious!   Watch my YouTube video NuVal Kickoff Day!!  Ryan (a freshmen) particularly impressed me by dressing up in the Coborns Moo Bell costume and dancing around.

By mid-morning the stickers had evolved into a trading-card/black market currency with the strawberry stickers representing something close to the 100 dollar bill. I also saw a sticker ninja (watch for it on the video)!

I think the biggest stir NuVal has made is with the Doritos poster. Did you know Doritos are a 23? That’s 16 more than Cheetos and 10 more than Chex Mix!!  Everybody is stunned and amazed by that one!  Also, a lot of people picked oranges today because they were 100. Poor applesauce.

Somebody pointed out today that I have to alter a comment I made in my first post about a value of 0 not being food! I realized today water must have a value of 0! But water isn’t actually a food so I’m still a little foggy on that one. I digress.

The Audio and Video production class made some pretty classic commercials for the occasion, and I will be posting one with every blog until I run out of them. Every commercial features a different “high school stereotype” and I think they’re hilarious. To start it off, enjoy this NuVal commercial “The Jock” brought to you by Mr. Schulte’s Audio and Video Production class!

Enjoy and keep reading!!

 It’s Melissa again.  You can read more of Lydia’s blog (she posts every Wednesday) on the Blend website here.  She has more great posts.  The Sartell story is worth following!


NuVal was featured on Ameria Now, ,” the news magazine show with Bill Rancic (the first winner of “The Apprentice”) and Leeza Gibbons (from Entertainment Tonight/Extra).  So cool to see Bill and Leeza talking about NuVal!  (I was a huge Bill fan when he won that first Apprentice!)  You can see this great video here!

Posted by: Melissa 5 comments

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