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Pass the Lobster, Please….. Even In This Economy

Joan Salge Blake , MS , RD, LDN

When the going gets tough, the tough are looking for ways to momentarily forget about their financial woes and pamper themselves. Here are my top five choices of upscale foods that taste deliciously expensive but are surprisingly affordable. They are also healthy to boot:

Pass the Lobster, Please .
Actually, it should be “Pass the Langostino Tails, Please”. This is the best kept shellfish secret to hit the market. These small, succulent crustaceans from Chile look like shrimp pieces but have the sweet, decadent taste of lobster. A three-ounce serving has only 70 calories and less than a gram of fat but at a reasonable $8.99 per 12 ounce bag, which serves four. While this may sound pricey at first, consider that a one pound lobster, which yields only about 3 to 4 ounces of meat (one serving), costs the same, if not more. These langostino tails quickly thaw in the refrigerator and are ready-to-eat – an additional bonus. Since the American Heart Association recommends at least two fish meals weekly, toss them in a dinner salad or in tomato sauce ladled over whole grain pasta for a meal that is fast, fabulous and good for your heart. Available at Trader Joes.
It's Greek to Me: Greek Yogurt
It's creamy and tangy and taste like a rich dessert rather than something that is good for your bones. A cup of nonfat plain provides about 200 mg of calcium, less than regular yogurt, but more than ice cream without the heart unhealthy saturated fat. Top Greek yogurt with mangoes (see below), and you'll think you're eating an wickedly rich treat. A six ounce container costs about $1 and can be found in the dairy aisle of most supermarkets.
Vacation Food: Mangoes
One bite of this naturally sweet gift from Mother Nature, and you'll think you are on a vacation in the Caribbean . While fresh mangoes can be pricey this time of year, mosey on over to the frozen food aisle and pick up a bag of frozen cubed mango chunks. Rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, and vitamins A and C, mangoes are a nutrition bargain at less than $2.50 a bag at Trader Joes. Bonus: there isn't any peeling or chopping involved. Available also at Whole Foods.
A Sandwich Makeover: Olde Cape Cod Cranberry Mustard
Since brown bag lunches are in, upscale your bland turkey sandwich with gourmet mustard. A tablespoon of Olde Cape Cold Cranberry Mustard spreads chunks of cranberries and a sweet and spicy taste on your lunchtime meal. Try it on a whole wheat flatbread topped with baby spinach and turkey for a healthy sandwich wrap that you'll look forward to eating all morning. About $4 a jar or 10 cents a serving.
Do the Salsa
While Americans are falling woefully short of their recommended vegetable serving, few realize that a generous amount of salsa counts towards a veggie serving as well as add some kick to a meal. Expand your salsa universe by branching out and spoon Fire Pineapple, Roasted Tomato, or White Corn and Black Bean salsa over grilled chicken, fish, or a baked potato with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Salsa prices range from $2 to over $4 for a 12 to 16 ounce jar. Note: A ¼ cup can range from a low of 60 to over 400 mg of sodium. Check the label and try to keep your daily sodium intake to under 2,300 mg daily.