One of my favorite pastimes is to wander the aisle of the grocery store. For me it’s enjoyable to seek out undiscovered foods, read their labels, and contemplate what they may taste well with. In a perfect world, I’d always have enough time to do these things while grocery shopping, but often the experience feels more like a drag race where the primary objective is to be in and out as quick as possible. After all, reading and comparing nutrition labels and ingredient lists and ensuring you don’t forget anything you need before leaving the store can make grocery shopping a pretty timely endeavor.
Luckily, systems are being developed to help time-crunched shoppers, like myself, shop easier and healthier. One that I particularly enjoy is called the NuVal Scoring System, which gives each food a nutrition value or score between 1 and 100. Put simply, the higher the score, the more nutritious the food.
Unlike food labels and ingredients lists, which are typically listed on the back of the product, NuVal scores are easy to find while perusing the aisles. Each score is listed next to the price on shelf tags throughout the grocery store. Making it even easier to spot is the scores hexagonal shape. It looks a little something like this:
As a dietitian, I appreciate that this system makes it easier for shoppers to choose more nutrient-rich foods when they just don’t have the time to flip around packages to examine the labels. I also appreciate the fact that unlike many other front-of-package labeling systems, this one was created by a team of registered dietitians and isn’t associated with any one particular food company. Being created by an independent third party, the scores are based on science, not marketing value.
Related: Learning the Food Label Language
Once you understand how the NuVal system works and know how to identify it in your local grocery store, it becomes easy to make decisions for a healthier lifestyle. As you shop, compare the foods you typically buy to other similar foods. Look to see if you are choosing the highest NuVal score and if not, consider trading up to ensure maximum nutrition. You may even be surprised to see that some of the foods you thought were better for you actually have a lower score than you thought they might. Low-fat and fat-free foods often seem like a healthier choice, but often score lower because of their altered sugar and/or salt content. Remember, when fat is removed from a food product, it is often replaced with sugar or salt to compensate for flavor.
Want to learn more about the NuVal system or find out which stores in your area are currently implementing it? Visit the NuVal website for further information.