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Are there any labels or certifications that I can look for to make my grocery shopping more simple? That is, rather than having

Posted Mar 10 2010 8:51am

Unfortunately, not really. It isn’t for lack of effort, though. Remember the whole Smart Choices debacle? Tina writes often about the NuVal system , which isn’t widely available in grocery stores just yet, and Whole Foods recently adopted the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) rating system . I have mixed feelings about both rating methods. The foods ANDI ranks highest are:

  • plant-based
  • whole
  • low-fat/”right”-fat
  • nutrient-dense

Those look okay on the surface, but since there’s still so much debate about what the “right” fats are (foods with saturated fat like chicken, beef, and cheese all have low ANDI scores), I’m a bit skeptical of the system. NuVal also lists saturated fat and cholesterol as “denominator nutrients” — those that supposedly have unfavorable effects on health. High-ranking ANDI foods include kale (yes), spinach (yes), and pomegranate juice (huh? This is mostly sugar!). In the NuVal system, turkey breast and Post Frosted Shredded Wheat have the same score. Sorry, that just doesn’t seem right! Both systems put a premium on grains, even if they include a lot of sugar.

I think if you stick to ANDI/NuVal foods, you’ll definitely improve your diet over the SAD (Standard American Diet), but you still might miss out on important nutrients.

Those rating and labeling systems are so risky. I don’t think we should dumb down nutrition for Americans — we need to learn as much as possible about what we’re putting in our bodies! — and depending on who funds the system, it has the potential to be corrupt or misinformed. But I do see the value in a simple ranking system, if only in a “eat this, not that,” black/white type of way (which has inherent dangers of its own!).

As a general rule, if you have to read through a long laundry list of ingredients, the food probably isn’t worth buying.

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