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New system makes nutrition easy

BY JOSIE JONES | NOVEMBER 20, 2009 7:21 AM

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Imagine a world without children crying in a shopping cart as they wait for their mothers to choose a healthy kids’ cereal, or a world without nutrition facts and confusing labels, or even a world in which a grocery store provides helpful tips to guide nutritious customers to a healthier lifestyle.

Enter NuVal — a new nutrition scoring system.

“[NuVal] is independent and based on science,” said Kym Wroble, the nutritionist at the Waterfront Hy-Vee. “It’s not from a specific company, so there is no alternative motive.”

NuVal is composed of 30 basic nutrients, some of which are favorable, such as fiber and vitamins, while others are “bad,” such as sodium and trans fat. The nutrients are placed into an algorithm which results in a score between one and 100 — the higher the number, the higher the nutritional value.

“It’s used to help consumers make more educated decisions,” Wroble said. “It’s quick and easy.”

NuVal is based on overall nutrition — it isn’t geared toward any specific diet or health concern.

Developed over five years by system visionary Dr. David Katz and a team of nutritionists and physicians, NuVal’s administrative panel uses the nutrition-facts label and list of ingredients to determine the recipe of a product. The recipe will help to determine the percentage of certain nutrients within in a product.

The presence or absence of what nutrients are in a food can affect the score. NuVal also takes main American health concerns, such as high cholesterol, and weighs them heavily in the scoring.

Hy-Vee is the only Midwest grocery chain utilizing the NuVal system. Wroble said there are approximately 16,800 products scored at Hy-Vee stores.

Items such as cereal, chips, canned fruits and vegetables, ice cream, and frozen pizza all have scores. The scores help to identify which products are healthier.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Wroble said.

Eventually, all food products will be scored with the exception of dietary supplements and alcohol. NuVal scores will be re-evaluated every two years.

Amy A’Hearn, a dietitian at UI Student Health Service, said she uses the NuVal system to compare cereals when in a hurry.

“It is nice to have something quick and easy to look at to help make healthful choices,” she said.

A product’s score can be found inside the pentagon-shaped NuVal logo displayed on both price tags and shelf sale fliers.

Although price isn’t taken into consideration when calculating a NuVal score, Wroble noted that the customer can use price as a factor when deciding between two similarly nutritious products.

A’Hearn said she believes NuVal is a beneficial tool for everyone, especially college students who are busy and may not have enough time to compare nutrition labels before purchasing certain foods.

College may also be the first time students have shopped for groceries on their own.

“The NuVal system can help guide them in making healthy choices,” A’Hearn said.

Wroble agreed, noting that small changes in all food categories will influence a consumer’s health.

“Over time, those changes are going to add up,” Wroble said. “It will affect people and help them live healthier, even when they’re in a hurry.”


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