Every time I head to the grocery store I see evidence that snacking is on the rise. On my last trip alone I spotted snack packs of seasoned nuts, cookie thins and peanut pretzels on the shelves. Seems you can't buy anything that doesn't also come packaged in individual or 100-calorie portions.
So I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, to learn that fresh fruit is the top and fastest-growing snack, at least in America.
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According to the Rosemont-based NPD Group's recently released Snacking in America report, growing concerns about health and healthy eating have helped boost fruit's popularity as a snack. In the two-year study, fresh fruit beat out chocolate and potato chips, which clocked in at second and third, respectively. Hard to believe, I know!
NPD's snack research discovered that fresh fruit appeals to snackers of all ages, though consumers 65 and older eat the most fruit, followed by children under 12. Teens ages 13 to 17 eat the least amount of fruit but their consumption increases as they get older, so don't give up hope on your teenager.
Smarter shopping: So you know fruits and veggies should be part of your daily diet, but did you realize the USDA Economic Research Service predicts the average cost of fruits and vegetables will be 3.5 to 4 percent higher this year than in 2012? Sugar and sweets, on the other hand, are not expected to see that much of an increase.
So what's a cost-conscious, health-conscious shopper to do?
Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, has some tips:
• Plan meals by pre-shopping the weekly ads. Find out which healthy and fresh foods are available for less and create your menu with those ingredients.
• Shop outside the supermarket. Broaden your grocery store horizons to include places like World Market, and save on everything from quinoa to organic coffee by using discount gift cards. Sites such as GiftCardGranny.com offer World Market gift cards for up to 10-percent off, yielding instant savings without coupons.
• Opt for frozen berries. Berries are low in calories, high in fiber and contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which promote optimum health and wellness, but when not in season, fresh berries are expensive. As a cheap alternative -- and one that offers a longer shelf life -- pick up bags of frozen berries. It's true that nothing beats fresh fruit in season, but frozen fruit tastes just as great in yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies.
• Buy whole produce not shredded carrots, cubed melon or cored pineapple. Sure they're convenient, but any food that has been diced, chopped, sliced, minced, peeled or bagged is more expensive, sometimes up to 40 percent more.
Get more of Woroch's tips at andreaworoch.com.
Domestic policy: New York wines and locally sourced ingredients are on the menu when President Obama sits down for his inaugural luncheon on Monday, Jan. 21, but the bubbly in the glasses will be from California.
Korbel Russian River Valley Natural Champagne will fill the flutes that the president, first lady and some 200 other dignitaries will be clinking immediately following the public swearing-in ceremony, the eighth time Korbel Champagne Cellars has been selected.
The Korbel tradition began in 1985 with Ronald Reagan's inauguration and has continued through the inaugurations of George Bush in 1989, Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005, and Barack Obama's first term in 2009.
I'm glad there's something both parties can agree on.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@daily herald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend on Facebook at facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest @PankeysPlate.