Guest Post: NuVal – “Nu” to you?

Well, it’s Thursday! I am driving from central Illinois straight to my interview in Columbus, OH! Which, by the way, is a 2 1/2 hour interview! I will spend 30 minutes with each of 5 different individuals or panels of dietitians. Talk about intense! After the interview, we’ll be checking into our hotel (which I’m sure will be super un-classy since they allow pets…when traveling with dogs, be prepared to rough it!) and then I’ll be seeing OUR NEW HOUSE for the first time! Believe it — Mr. Prevention purchased our new home without my approval. I am really hoping he did a good job!!

Anyways, Christina of Food.Fun.Fabulous is interning for NuVal this summer and offered to write today’s guest post! I am a huge, huge, huge fan of NuVal! I teach NuVal scoring to patients and have used it in classroom settings, as well. But I’ll let the very wise Christina tell you all about it!

Thanks, Christina! Enjoy!

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How many times have you rushed into the grocery store wanting to pick out something healthy for your family and just didn’t have time to look at the Nutrition Facts Panel or the ingredients list? Maybe if you do have a second, you only concentrate on one thing – Fat? Salt? Sugar?  It can all be a confusing.  If you are looking for a little help, the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System is here.

NuVal is a nutritional scoring system developed by a dozen top health and nutrition experts, including Dr. David Katz.  The Overall Nutritional Quality Index™ (ONQI) algorithm factors in more than 30 different nutrients making it the most comprehensive algorithm to date.  Generally favorable nutrients such as fiber and omega-3 fatty acids are placed in the numerator while generally unfavorable nutrients like saturated and trans fatty acids are placed in the denominator and voila! – a score from 1 to 100 is generated; the higher the number, the higher the nutrition.  Now you can see at a glance how nutritious a food is.

I’m starting to sound like an infomercial now aren’t I? But NuVal is not a hoax.  It is based on pure science and it is independent! NuVal was funded by Griffin Hospital and not developed in association with manufacturers or others interested in specific outcomes.  Scores are based on national dietary guidelines and current research.  NuVal even considers how certain nutrients impact disease risk including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Want proof? A Harvard Study conducted by Dr. Walt Willett determined that the higher the NuVal scores in an individual’s diet, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Currently, NuVal is in place at Price Chopper, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Brookshire, Festival Foods (WI), and United Supermarkets across the country as well as in Kroger stores in Lexington, Kentucky.  It’s also being established in several other retailers throughout the year.  Not in a store near you?  Go to www.nuval.com and suggest a store!  You can also see sample scores on the website, link to our NuVal blogs, and play our Nutrition by the Numbers game.

I have had the extremely fortunate experience of interning at NuVal this summer.  In fact I have less than a month left and I’m so sad to be leaving!  I’ve had the pleasure to be under the wing of NuVal’s Senior Director of Nutrition, Annette Maggi, as well as NuVal’s Nutrition Communications Manager, Rachel Rodek.  I swear I must have grown 3 feet (figuratively of course!) in the past few weeks from everything they have taught me.  So I’m sending out a big THANK YOU to both of them.

If there is one thing you can take away from NuVal, it’s that there is always an opportunity for a “trade-up.” It doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite snacks for an eating plan consisting only of fruits and veggies.  If you love cookies try switching from one that is lower scoring to one that is higher scoring.  The highest scoring cookie is Kashi TLC Tasty Little Cookies Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Flax with a score of 40. That is awesome for that category because the average cookie score is a 7.  Even Oreos score above average with a 24!  Another somewhat surprising score?  Annie’s Homegrown Cinnamon Bunny Grahams score less than half as much as Oreos with an 11. Sorry but being organic doesn’t automatically mean it is high scoring.

So keep in mind that little changes add up over time and can have a big impact on your health.

NuVal. One number. One decision. One food at a time.

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Question: Have you heard of NuVal? Is the NuVal scoring system active in your local grocery store?

NuVal love,

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23 Comments

  1. July 29, 2010 / 5:55 am

    Good luck on your interview Nicole! It sounds like a med school interview (at least in length…although I think some of mine were around 3 or 4 hours long…but honestly after the first hour, it’s all the same.). I’m sure you’ll rock it!

    Great guest post. It’s hard to tell which diet companies are just a scam and which are actually legitimately worthwhile. Best to get the inside scoop!

  2. July 29, 2010 / 6:00 am

    I don’t think Giant Eagle is getting NuVal, but I’m not positive. There are some issues we have with it, but overall I think it’s a really fantastic program! The writing needs to be larger on the little tags throughout the store, and they need to stand out more, but I think it’s great.

  3. July 29, 2010 / 6:43 am

    Good luck with the interview! Seeing the house will be a great way to celebrate the interview. Hope your hubby made a good pick. I bet he did!

  4. July 29, 2010 / 6:45 am

    I have heard of NuVal but didn’t know all the details, so thanks for this great primer!

    Nicole–You are a better woman than me. I can’t even imagine letting my husband pick out a piece of furniture without me, never mind a house!

  5. July 29, 2010 / 6:52 am

    I have heard of NuVal, LOVE it, and I am trying to get one of our local chains to implement it. One of the larger ones in our area does, but they have a limited selection of ethnic foods compared to the local chain .NuVal is the most useful tool to help people make the wisest choices for their dollar and health when it comes to food !

  6. July 29, 2010 / 7:10 am

    I had heard of the scoring before. If my stores had it, it would definitely influence my purchases. Maybe by the time I get home…

  7. July 29, 2010 / 7:10 am

    My stores were one of the very first to ever see NuVal; so glad it’s spreading!

  8. aria
    July 29, 2010 / 8:25 am

    My grocery store (United Market Street in North Texas) has NuVal and I love it! It’s so easy to glance at two products to compare and my husband now even looks at the nutritional score.

  9. July 29, 2010 / 8:29 am

    I had heard of it but guess I never really knew was it was. This was an AWESOME guest post and very informative. I can’t wait to check out their website. I love what you said about being organic but not necessarily healthy–I think people fall into this trap that since something is “organic” or “fat free” or “gluten free” that things are automatically better for you to eat. I love that the Nuval system is accounting for everything and giving one score. Just awesome!

  10. coco_fee26
    July 29, 2010 / 8:46 am

    This is a great step in the right direction of offering consumers the chance to be informed–as with information comes empowerment; however, there is one thing to keep in mind that the score does not differentiate between “techno”-foods and natural foods and the fact that unbuttered, unsalted popcorn earns a score of 69 while the boneless, skinless chicken breast earns a score of 39 is just ridiculous. Eggs get a score of 18, cheese 17, and fizzy drinks 15…see what I mean? You don’t need an index to tell you that veggies are better for you than cookies and we really shouldn’t be eating by nutrients & numbers…will this make people eat/shpo healthier at the grocery store? Personally, I don’t think so…but it is a good tool to shed some light/awareness on the matter….best advice, follow Michael Pollan, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants!”

    • July 29, 2010 / 9:59 am

      Hi “Coco”, thanks for commenting! You seem to know some of the scores so you may have NuVal in a store near you. I just want to offer some corrections to what you have included. Eggs receive a score of 33, popcorn (the plain kernels,like what you would put in an air-popper) scores a 91, and while some diet soda do score around 15, regular soda does score a 1. That is assuming by fizzy drink you generally implied soda. Michael Pollan does give great advice and the NuVal scores do correlate with that – many fruits and vegetables score between 90 -100! Hope this helps.
      Best, Christina

  11. July 29, 2010 / 9:13 am

    I love Nuval and hearing about the people who work for it – very smart and interesting concept 😀

    GOOD LUCK GIRL!

  12. July 29, 2010 / 9:53 am

    Good luck with your interview and seeing your house for the first time!!!

    I have heard of NuVal and I think it’s a great system, however it’s not in grocery stores in my area yet.

  13. July 29, 2010 / 10:10 am

    It’s great to have the info like that highlight in the package! I find this post really helpful 🙂
    How’s Lily… she must be exhausted!

  14. July 29, 2010 / 11:25 am

    Good luck on the interview!!! And how exciting that you’ll be seeing your new house for the first time!!!!

    I’ve heard of NuVal but have never seen in in stores. Sounds like a good program.

  15. July 29, 2010 / 11:58 am

    All the best nicole,hope you get it….Nice guest post as well…

  16. July 29, 2010 / 12:44 pm

    Im impressed that he bought a house without your permission. Im sure you’ll LOVE it! 🙂

    I’ve never heard of NuVal – but it sounds like a really good idea.

  17. July 29, 2010 / 6:42 pm

    I have heard of NuVal but have yet to see it in any stores. I think it is a great idea since many people do not like to bothered with reading food labels or do not know what they should be looking for.

  18. July 31, 2010 / 9:18 am

    I saw those Andi numbers on some stuff at Whole Foods. I’m thinking it’s similar.

  19. August 10, 2010 / 2:44 pm

    Here’s my problem with the NuVal system: They seem to aim for getting the consumer to stop reading the label and knowing what ingredients make up the “nutrition”. Granted we still have the choice, a lot of people will likely opt for the ease of thinking “if it has a higher number from NuVal, it’s must healthier for me”

    Taking from your post here, the comparison of Annie’s Homegrown Cinnamon Bunny Grahams with a score of 11 to Oreo Cookies with a score of 24. Based on NuVal’s score, yes the Oreo appears better for you, but that doesn’t consider the ingredients.

    Let’s look at the ingredient list for Oreo cookies:
    SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN – AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE.

    Words that jump out at me in Oreo’s are: Enriched Flour, HIGH Fructose Corn Syrup, “And/or, And/OR”

    If you take a look at the ingredients list for the Annie’s product:
    ORGANIC WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR, ORGANIC WHEAT FLOUR, ORGANIC EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, EXPELLER PRESSED VEGETABLE OIL (SAFFLOWER AND/OR SUNFLOWER), ORGANIC GRAHAM FLOUR, ORGANIC CORN FLOUR, HONEY, CHOCOLATE COOKIE BITS (WHEAT FLOUR, ORGANIC EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, SUNFLOWER OIL, ALKALIZED COCOA, SALT, BAKING SODA), NATURAL AND ALKALIZED COCOA, CALCIUM CARBONATE, NATURAL FLAVOR (VANILLA, CHOCOLATE AND GRAHAM CRACKER), SEA SALT, BAKING SODA, CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT).

    In the Annie’s product there is a lot less And/OR, and we see WHOLE ingredients, not enriched flours.

    It’s a personal choice and to each their own, but I base my nutrition on less processed foods and try to read more of the label. Knowing what goes into the food I eat is important to me. If something WHOLE or ORGANIC has more calories or fat, sodium etc, I eat less of it knowing it’s more nutritionally dense than highly processed foods. Nuval does not seem to take into account the quality of ingredients or the amount of processing that goes into a food obtaining a higher NuVal score.

  20. Just Joe
    May 2, 2012 / 7:01 pm

    Explain why does Diet Pepsi (with caffine) and Coke Zero (with caffine) get a 15 score – but diet A&W rootbeer WithOut Caffine get a 2?

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