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!