12/16/10

"Is NuVal Wrong?"

I was in Market Street yesterday and someone grabbed me "You've got to see this! I think NuVal has it all wrong!" I walked briskly to keep up with this person, following them to the honey.

"Look at this! This is organic, raw honey and the NuVal score is 1!" In one fluid movement, this person then reached across the aisle to grab a random box of sugary cereal. "This cereal gets a 23 and organic honey only gets a 1?! Don't you think you're sending guests the wrong message?"

I paused, took a breath, gathered my thoughts and knew that I could handle this question, but would have to tread lightly. Over the next few minutes I explained some confusing concepts and at the end of our conversation we actually made a friend and ally of Market Street. Here are a few of the concepts we discussed:

1. Natural and Organic doesn't always equate to "Healthy". Organic/natural sugar and fat are still processed the same way in our body as regular sugar and fat. They still have calories. Think about this: lard is completely natural but very few health professionals would recommend consuming it to improve health. Look for nutrient-rich natural and organic products.

2. NuVal considers both favorable and unfavorable nutrients. While honey contains no trans fat, saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol, it doesn't provide fiber or considerable amounts of vitamins or minerals. Organic honey received a score of "1" because the only ingredient is sugar. While most would not classify a sugary cereal as healthy, it still contains small amounts of whole grains, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

3. NuVal is best used within categories rather than between. Most store guests aren't choosing between cereal and honey, and honestly we wouldn't want them to. We also wouldn't want our guests to choose between apples (NuVal score of 96) and skim milk (NuVal score of 91). As your registered dietitian, I want you to "trade up" within each category and get the best nutrition each category has to offer.

4. Natural and Organic can be used with NuVal. We are all more aware and concerned with the food and residue that is going into our bodies. While natural and organic doesn't always means healthier from a nutrient perspective, it can be better for our environment and in reducing the intake of foreign chemicals. Natural and organic may not always fit every guests' budget or food philosophy. But, for those who make natural and organic a priority, there is still plenty of ways to "trade up" within that category. Remember, the higher the score, the better the nutrition.

5. Finally, focus on the entire meal. Sure, honey only gets a NuVal score of "1," but what if the organic honey was on steel cut oatmeal with natural peanut butter and diced apples? What a great, well-rounded breakfast! Or, consider the sugary cereal. Perhaps that cereal is combined with a highfiber, whole grain cereal, skim milk and sliced bananas.

We aren't expecting our guests to find the perfect NuVal score or eat a perfect diet. We merely offer the tools for you to build a wonderful foundation for health!

Still have questions? We'd love to answer them. You can Ask the Dietitian and we will post your answer on our website.

Healthy Regards!!

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