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NuVal: making the nutritious choice easier

Posted by Janice Cox, RDN, LD, Lunds and Byerly’s Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Let’s face it, most of us are pressed for time and wearing many hats in our families – caregiver, coach, teacher and nutritionist. So it probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the typical grocery shopper buys 61 items in 26 minutes and spends roughly two seconds scanning each product label.

In those couple of seconds, what are you looking for on the package? Are you focused on the calories, cholesterol, sodium, and carbs? Maybe you’re scanning the front of the package for claims like all natural, no sugar added or trans-fat free. That’s a lot to sort through! The nutrition information and claims on packaging has left some consumers confused or unaware of the health choices they make.

That’s why we recently introduced the NuVal® System in all 22 of our stores. It’s a science-based nutrition scoring system that shows you the nutritional value of foods you buy.

This system scores food and beverages based on more than 30 favorable and unfavorable nutritional factors that might be present in a product – everything from fiber and vitamins to fat and sodium.

Each product is given a score between 1 and 100 that is clearly displayed on the product’s shelf tag, next to the price. The higher the score, the more nutritious the product. Nearly 15,000 products in our stores currently have a NuVal score, and that number will continue to rise as the NuVal System analyzes and scores additional products on an ongoing basis.

For years it’s been expected that people make nutrition decisions on their own by trying to understand a product’s in-depth nutrition label. As rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease continue to climb, it’s clear that this approach isn’t working. Currently, 68% of our population is overweight or obese. Projections for 2020 indicate 80% of us will be overweight or obese and one in five children will be obese. The current generation of children is the first that is predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The list of obesity-related conditions includes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Along with these diseases, health care costs are skyrocketing. Without changes in eating and exercise habits, these figures will continue to climb out of control.

The NuVal System is a wonderful tool for those who aren’t experts at reading nutrition labels but want to make more nutritious choices. While there’s a lot of complex science behind each NuVal score, you’re able to compare the nutritional value of products by looking at one, easy-to-understand number.

The NuVal System was developed by a team of nutrition and medical experts from leading health organizations and universities. Led by Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, NuVal scores are based on recommendations such as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Dietary Reference Intakes. Scores are also based on a product’s Nutrition Facts Panel and ingredient list to provide the most accurate score possible. The NuVal System reflects widely accepted research in nutrition and nutrients, as well as the impact of these nutrients on our health, both positively and negatively.

The system has some powerful endorsements, such as the Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Additionally, a study was conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, linking NuVal Scores to public health. The study included 110,000 participants and revealed that the higher the NuVal scores in an individual’s diet, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

We know many people want to make healthier food choices, but they don’t always know how to make sense of the endless supply of nutrition information and health claims on packaging.

This is why we believe the NuVal System is a helpful resource to offer our customers and why we are the first retailer in the Twin Cities to do so.

How to Use NuVal Scores:

NuVal scores help you trade up within food categories, such as cereals, milks, breads, meats, etc. If you look at the cereal category, for example, the NuVal scores range from 2-91, and the category average score is 27. In the yogurt category, you will see NuVal scores between 9 and 100.

Even for a registered dietitian like myself, NuVal scores have helped me make some significant changes to my purchasing decisions. My usual breakfast is yogurt with granola. My previous fruit-flavored yogurt scores a 24 and my former granola scores a 33. I traded up my granola to one that scores a 91. I also now use plain Greek yogurt (NuVal score of 98) and add in fresh or frozen unsweetened fruit, like blueberries or cherries (each have a NuVal score of 100). It’s an eye-opening triple win!

Trade ups are easy using NuVal scores. Here are a few examples:

  • Special K: Original is a 20, Red Berry is a 24, and Protein Plus is a 53
  • Pasta sauce: Classico Four Cheese is a 35, while Classico Spicy Red Pepper is a 68
  • Yogurt: Yoplait Original Lemon Burst is a 27, Yoplait Lite Blueberry is a 61, and Yoplait Greek Plain is a 98

The NuVal System isn’t a diet. The intention isn’t to eat only products that have a NuVal score of 100 – that’s not possible because we need a variety of nutrients for our bodies to function properly. However, if you are on a special diet, you still need to read the label for specifics. When you’ve identified the products you can consume, NuVal scores help you choose and trade up for the most nutritious ones. It’s another great tool you can use.

What the NuVal System will do is help you quickly and easily identify a product’s nutritional qualities so you can make more informed choices for you and your family. Small changes add up and can make a big difference. The quality of what we put into our bodies does matter – try it and see for yourself!

Tags: nuvalnutrition

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