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Nutrition vs. your food budget

By Naomi Mannino ·
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

I might change up my food shopping list thanks to new nutritional scoring systems popping up in grocery stores.

In celebration of National Nutrition Month 2012, NuVal nutritional rating scores appear for many foods in supermarkets such as Kroger, Meijer and Big Y World Foods Inc. Wal-Mart has developed its own nutrition program called Great For You.

The NuVal ratings system gives foods a score from 1 to 100, which are based on the Overall Nutritional Quality Index. Participating grocery stores add the scores to the labels next to the food item's price. What I like is that  it's a rating independent from any other commercial interests. The scoring accounts for more than 30 food factors and ingredients, including sugar, sodium and fiber levels.

At Wal-Mart, shoppers will simply see the Great For You banner in the produce department and an icon on private-label shelf tags or packaging. The icons will indicate the food is indeed "great for you." The food items meet guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. government health agencies and organizations, and food and nutrition experts from the public and private sectors.

While grocery shopping, you should also read beyond the nutrition panel and search for natural, unprocessed items in the ingredients list, says Katherine Tallmadge in a recent Washington Post article titled "5 so-called health foods you should avoid."  In doing so, you can find products with the most nutritional value for yourself.

Now, you can compare similar foods and brands based on nutrition and your budget.

There are many ways to save on healthy choices, including the following tips.

  • Buy produce in season for the best prices. For March, it's mangos, strawberries, asparagus and artichokes.
  • March is also National Frozen Food Month, so look for special promotions in the freezer aisle.
  • Avoid snack-size packaging, which costs more per unit for the convenience of not packing your own healthy snacks.
  • Shop on Tuesdays for clearance on the week's sale items because most stores come out with their new circulars on Wednesday.
  • Buy basics such as brown rice, oats and yogurt in bulk if possible for healthier baking and cooking.
  • Never leave home without your coupons.

You can visit NuVal's website for a full list of grocery stores participating in the score program. Would nutrition ratings sway you, or would you still buy the less-nutritious items if you had a coupon or they were on sale?

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March 08, 2012 at 11:54 am

What I like is that it's a rating independent from any other commercial interests.

NO IT IS NOT. What I DON'T like is it proports to reduce the issue to a single number. That is the PROBLEM, not the solution.