Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do you NuVal?

Lauren, Biz, and Juliana were right, cornstarch actually thins if it's overworked.

Tina recently started working with NuVal, and I was excited to check it out in Price Chopper when I went home. NuVal evaluations the nutritional value of foods based on a range of criteria, including protein, fiber, fats, sodium, sugar, cholesterol, glycemic load, energy density, vitamins and minerals. Based on these factors, it assigns a score on a scale of 1-100, the higher the score, the better nutritional value of the product.


I really like their score, how it takes into account so many valuable bits of information, rather than a label of "reduced fat" or "low carb" to give the illusion of being automatically better for you. It does not take into account toxins (as could be found in certain seafood), nor does it take into account organic ingredients. Overall I agree with this omission, just because something is organic does not necessarily mean that it is better for you. It leaves the decision of organic up to the consumer, whose responsibility it is to educate themselves on the choices they make. The one thing I found surprising that artificial ingredients did not affect the NuVal score, and in many cases, actually increases it.

To see it up close and personal, I went to the store with my camera and started snapping! I know fresh fruits and veggies score high on the NuVal scale, so I focused on things that might be more revealing: cereal, crackers, chips, yogurt and granola bars. Here are a few things I learned...

Not all brands are created equal.
Arrowhead Mills Amaranth Flakes 91
Health Valley Amaranth Flakes 31

Peanut Butter Puffins (24) aren't any better than my childhood favorite, Lucky Charms (23).

You shouldn't always choose pretzels over chips.
Terra Chips 34
Garden of Eatin Blue Corn Chips 40
Soy Crisps ~30
Snyders Mini Pretzels 10 (!! Snaps score a 20, why? I didn't look closely at the ingredients)
Snyders Honey Wheat Pretzels 25

Chocolate can be better than dried fruit.
Fig Newmans 9
Newmans Chocolate O's 14

Different varieties of the same product can vary widely.
Shredded Wheat 91
Lightly Frosted or Honey Nut Shredded Wheat ~30
Stoneyfield Fat Free Plain Yogurt 89
Stoneyfield Fat Free French Vanilla 42
Tropicana Ruby Red 39
Tropicana Ruby Red + Calcium + Vit D 82
Light N Fit Raspberry White Chocolate Yogurt 81
Light N Fit Blackberry Yogurt 47

Salsa isn't always good for you.
Frontera Habanero Salsa 8 (!! I'm guessing salt, maybe sugar too)
Amy's Black Bean & Corn Salsa 35

When it comes to cereals, some of the highest scores came from Arrowhead Mills Amaranth Flakes (91), Alpen No Sugar Added Muesli Cereal (87) and Shredded Wheat (91). Keep in mind that not every product had a NuVal score. I was interested to see how Kashi stacked up, but they weren't labelled in my store. Fiber One Original, All Bran, and Special K Protein Plus scored between 50-60, as do rolled oats. I was surprised to see how much higher other grains scored - Oat bran (66), 5 Grain cereal (93), Muesli (87) and 10 Grain cereal (91).

Crackers as a whole score lower on the NuVal scale, but the ones I found at the top were All Bran crackers (35) and Wasa Fiber crackers (39). Kashi TLC, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Whole Grain Goldfish and Special K crackers all fell in the high 20s. Wheatables serves as a cautionary tale to not trust a name, scoring a 4!

Phew, monster post! Sorry if it's a little overwhelming, but I had fun looking at the scores (although I generally do like to take my time in grocery stores!). I think that NuVal scores are an easy way to start thinking about what you're buying. Of course there's always making your own crackers, chips and cookies, but sometimes you need convenience :) Now it's up to the stores to highlight the scores for consumers, and to keep adding scores to all of their products!

To find out other stores that feature NuVal scores, click here. Has anyone else seen these in their supermarket?? Check out Tina's blog for some ideas on how to "trade up" (increase the nutritional value) some of your meals!

38 comments:

moretolifethanlettuce said...

i only heard about the NuVal system the other day and i haven't seen it in action in the stores near me yet! oh no, not my PB puffins! i'm going to continue believing that they are a legit food and not just glorified sugar.

Elra said...

What a coincidence Shannon, as I am typing this I am having a cup of tea and Wasa with strawberry jam. Wasa, that is my everyday favorite snack. I have it with different type of conserve for variation.

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

clearly i am in the dark as this is all news to me! thx for the clueing in :)

Erica said...

I love the idea of NuVal. I think its really great, especially for moms looking at new products for their kids. Great post girly. Hope you're enjoying the new year

Lauren said...

Great post, Shannon. I haven't noticed the NuVal scores at the store, but I haven't really been looking for them. I'll keep an eye out on my next trip!

brandi said...

that's so cool that they show the scores on the labels there. I hope it moves into VA soon!

Melissa said...

Great post on NuVal! It really is eye-opening, isn't it? I'm always trying out new products when I shop the scores.

Elina said...

Pretty cool. I don't completely agree with their scoring system (especially on artificial sweeteners front, and some of the "enriched" stuff) but it still is a really good starting point. I hope they bring it to MA stores!

Annette Maggi said...

Shannon,

I'm glad to hear that you love NuVal. It really is a powerful, easy-to-use tool that can help consumers make more nutritious food choices. I wanted to get back to you in regards to artificial ingredients in the NuVal scoring process. Those products closest to nature are actually treated preferentially in the NuVal system. For example, the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and milk is not counted. Vitamins and minerals that are added to foods are capped, while those that occur naturally are not capped. With artificially-sweetened products, you may see higher scores, because the energy density of the product is lower than the traditionally sweetened version.

I hope this helps provide more information for your readers. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at amaggi@nuval.com.

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
Sr. Director of Nutrition at NuVal LLC

Kelly said...

It's definitely interesting. It's nice that we are coming out with more and more ways to make healthy choices. I think my only reservation is boiling everything down to a single score. It's great for efficiency, but I guess I am the kind of person that then wonders what the calculation is and looks for the details. It would be handy to have but I would still definitely factor in the enjoyment factor. It would also be nice to know what in some cases is dragging the score down because there were a couple of surprises.

Nicole (dishin') said...

This post was great, very informative. I'm bummed that Puffins had such a low score. It seems like anything even remotely sweet gets a low score. I better learn to like shredded wheat!!

Kelly said...

It is definitely interesting and gives you something to think about for sure! Crazy...some of those numbers are surprising. I have played around on the NuVal website and I am always shocked at some of the results!

Megan said...

Wow! I am going to have to look for that when I go grocery shopping. I've never heard of it before but it sounds like a great idea. Even if I'm just deciding which granola bars to get, I imagine it would be very useful!

Maria said...

I wish our stores had NuVal scoring. What a great thing!

peanutbutterfingers said...

this scoring is pretty neat! if only it was found everywhere...

Joanne said...

Wow those labels are fascinating. Another thing to look at now besides calorie count and nutritional labels. I'm going to see if any of the stores near me feature this!

Julie said...

I just found this at a new grocery store in Madison, WI - very fun to check out what is good and what isn't! It took me much longer to shop, but I was glad to see we already were making decent choices in the few processed stuff we do buy (Wheat Thins and Triskets). I don't eat cold cereal but it was fun to find a healthier choice for the hubby...but I was also disappointed that not every item is scored, so comparing yogurts was not as easy as I would have liked...but still a great tool!

chrystad72 said...

So interesting. Im really excited about the NuVal system. Thanks for all the awesome info for everything. I was surpised at how a brand change could affect the overall score!

Kerstin said...

How interesting, I hadn't even heard of this before. I think it's great for quickly comparing similar products!

Sarah said...

What an awesome visual comparison of the different NuVal scores. It sounds like the company has great potential to expand, which would be good for me since I don't think anyone on the West Coast uses them yet.

I'm glad you think the trifle sounds good too- despite my stinky picture! I linked to the original recipe on epicurious.com if you are interested. It has so many components which scares me a little bit, and it's best for a crowd which I don't usually have, but oh my- so worth it! I might just make the pumpkin caramel sometime.

Nicole Chow - HealthyChow.com said...

This is so cool! I am going to have to find a store with the Nu Val scores. Did you get any weird looks from people as you were snapping away? I took some pics of the empty shelf where the Libby's pumpkin was supposed to be for one of my posts and people looked at me like I was nuts! HAHAHA! I love it!

Diana said...

Wow, how interesting. I think this system is a great eye-opener for people who don't know much about nutrition. But then for people like you and me who are a little more evolved ;) do you agree with all those ratings? Oatmeal, for example--I would think it should be up near the top, ratings-wise, over a cereal whose grains have been processed and reformed. Or maybe I'm not evolved quite enough to understand yet, haha :)

preventionrd said...

When I was in Chicago over Christmas I saw NuVal scores for the first time. Thank GOODNESS I had my camera with me! I blogged about it the other day, actually. NuVal scores aren't in Tulsa yet, but I can't wait for them to get here. I agree, I love that they take into account so many nutrients. It's very informative for shoppers, I love it!

5 Star Foodie said...

This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing the info on the NuVal system and the scores. I will be reading more about this.

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

I saw them the other day in Price Chopper! I wish the were in all the markets! I love the idea.

Fitcoach2007 said...

I wish they would start this at our grocery store

PUBLIX!!!

Ameena said...

This NuVal thing is really interesting! I haven't heard of it before but I love the idea.

Cate O'Malley said...

Hadn't heard of the NuVal system until reading your post, but it's interesting to see the varying numbers, even amongst the same types of things.

Christina said...

I had no clue about the NuVal; next time I'm at the store I'll see if I can spot it!

Lauren said...

Interesting! I've never heard of NuVal (maybe its only in the states?). It sounds pretty cool though =D.

Adam said...

I remember hearing about this being started about a year ago. Go figure that I leave the land of Price Choppers (grew my whole life) and NOW they do it :)

Very, very interesting how things stack up, but I bet theres a reason for everything. I wonder if some companies will try to get a higher score when they see they are so low.

Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said...

I haven't noticed the nuval system on the lables at the store yet.. but i will be paying attention tomorrow as I shop.

Adrienne said...

Wow, I'd never even heard of this before. Fascinating post!

Ricki said...

Interesting concept. I'd love to know the criteria for deciding what is and isn't healthy!

beet-red said...

I've been reading about NuVal a lot lately, very interesting, great post!

Hannah said...

I've never heard of this system before, but it's definitely an interesting and potentially very helpful approach to finding healthier foods at the grocery store!

Jennifer said...

I read labels a lot, so I was happy when I learned about NuVal. It's nice being able to make a split-second decision when I'm in a hurry. I am not 100% sure I trust NuVal though. I am not a paranoid person, but I've noticed some weirdness that makes me wonder if it's completely unbiased. For example, the store brand versions of popular foods often far outrank their brand name counterparts. But the weirdest thing I noticed was a HUGE discreprancy between diced and whole chilis. The diced chilis were something like 25, while the whole chilis were 8! I read both labels, and they had identical ingredients and identical calories per serving (same brand as well). What gives? Is there some aspect of nutrition that I'm not understanding here? Needless to say it made me lose my faith in the system a bit. I wonder if a NuVal tag was erroneously placed (or left) on the shelf, since it's separate from the price tag.

Enrique said...

As the owner of a catering directory site, we are constantly asked by brides and grooms if our caterers can provide nutritional information for the menus they offer. I personally think that for a wedding, there are more important things to worry about than nutritional value but it just shows the our obsession with living healthy. I thin NuVal makes it easy to eat right.

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