(Family Features) - Many Americans feel a trip to the grocery store is a bit of a balancing act. Families are looking for ways to stretch their food dollars so they can still enjoy the products they have come to value so greatly. In fact, a new survey* finds that while people feel nutrition is more important than price, nearly three in four (74 percent) Americans feel the need to cut back on purchasing certain food items, such as all-natural foods and fresh produce, in order to save money.
Registered Dietitian Patricia M. Bannan says that a great way to find nutritious and wholesome food is to start by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. There are simple, budget-friendly ways to eat healthful foods if shoppers just know what foods to choose and where they can save.
Each department requires special attention, so follow these tricks of the trade from Bannan to get the most value and best nutrition out of your choices.
While in the produce section, look for dark green, deep purple, bright red, orange and yellow items, as they are packed with different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients for good health. Aim for at least five servings a day.
- Smart Value Tip: Ask your grocer which fruits and vegetables are currently in season and stick with buying those for lowest price and best selection, nutrition and flavor.
Try to choose 100 percent whole wheat or whole-grain breads, pitas or tortillas from the bakery. If a product is truly made with 100 percent whole wheat, the first word on the ingredient list should be "whole." If not, it's often not as nutrient-rich.
- Smart Value Tip: Look for bargains like day-old bread and rolls - these items taste just as good as those baked that day but may come with a lower price tag. Also, buy in bulk when loaves are on sale - you can freeze the extras.
When it comes to meat it's a great option to go all natural. Not only does it maximize your nutrient intake due to minimal processing, but there are cost-effective options for all-natural meat.
- Smart Value Tip: Instead of traditional pre-packaged deli lunch meat, try 100 percent natural Hormel Natural Choice meat that cost about the same as their non-natural counterparts and have zero preservatives and no nitrates or nitrites added. Plus, they are gluten free and trans fat free.
Your final perimeter shopping stop will likely be the dairy section. To avoid saturated fat found in dairy products, choose low-fat versions of your favorite products. Instead of a sugar-packed fruit yogurt, consider buying plain yogurt and adding your own berries or dried fruit.
- Smart Value Tip: Rather than buying pre-shredded cheese, buy large chunks of parmesan, Cheddar or mozzarella and grate them yourself.
The makers of Hormel Natural Choice meat have partnered with Bannan to create the brochure entitled, "Shop Smart, Live Well: Value Without Compromise," which includes even more tips on finding nutritious, all-natural and wholesome options without breaking the bank. Shoppers can download their own copy of the brochure at http://www.hormelnatural.com.
*About the Survey: This Hormel Natural Choice survey was conducted by Kelton Research between May 1st and May 8th 2009, among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and over.