Nutritional rating systems

Nutritional rating systems

Nutritional rating systems are methods of ranking or rating food products or food categories to communicate the nutritional value of food in a simplified manner to a target audience. Rating systems are developed by governments, nonprofit organizations, or private institutions and companies.

The methods may use point systems to rank or rate foods for general nutritional value or they may rate specific food attributes such as cholesterol content. Graphics or other symbols may be used to communicate the ratings to the target audience.

Nutritional rating systems differ from nutritional labeling in that they attempt to simplify food choices, rather than listing specific amounts of nutrients or ingredients. Dietary guidelines are similar to nutritional rating systems in that they attempt to simplify the communication of nutritional information, however, they do not rate individual food products.


Systems in use today

Glycemic index

Glycemic index is a ranking of how quickly food is metabolized into glucose when digested. It compares available carbohydrates gram for gram in individual foods, providing a numerical, evidence-based index of postprandial (post-meal) glycemia. The concept was invented by Dr. David J. Jenkins and colleagues in 1981 at the University of Toronto.[1]

Guiding Stars

Guiding Stars is a nutrition guidance program that rates all edible products in the store. It utilizes an evidence based proprietary algorithm that was developed by a Scientific Advisory Panel, a group of experts in the fields of nutrition and health from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Tufts University, University of North Carolina and other colleges. The nutrition guidance program first launched a Hannaford Supermarkets in 2006, and is currently in more than 1,500 stores including Hannaford, Sweetbay, Food Lion and Kings Super Market (Fall 2010). Guiding Stars also expanded to public school districts and college dining facilities and partnered with ReachEverywhere’s Shopper iPhone application.

Guiding Stars utilizes an evidence-based proprietary algorithm that is grounded in the current dietary guidelines and recommendations of leading national and international regulatory and health organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The system assigns zero, one, two, or three stars to food products based on the nutritional value. Products with more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and whole grains get more stars. Products with more saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sodium, or added sugars get fewer stars.


Nutripoints is a system for rating foods on a numerical scale for their overall nutritional value. The method is based on an analysis of 26 positive (such as vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber) and negative factors (such as cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar, sodium) compared to the calories in the food. The overall Nutripoint score of the food is the result. The higher the value, the more nutrition per calorie (nutrient density) and the least negative factors in the food. Thus, the higher the Nutripoint score, the better the food for overall health. The system rates 3600+ foods including basic foods like apples and oranges, fast-foods, and brand-name foods.

Nutripoints was developed by Dr. Roy E. Vartabedian (a Doctor of Public Health) in the 1980s and was released to the general public in 1990 with his book, "Nutripoints," published in 13 countries and 10 languages worldwide. The food rating system is part of an overall program designed to help people measure, balance, and upgrade their diet's nutritional quality for overall health improvement and well-being.[2]

Nutrition iQ

The Nutrition iQ program is a joint venture of the Joslin Clinic and multi-banner supermarket operator Supervalu[disambiguation needed ]. The labeling system consists of color-coded tags denoting a food product's superior status with respect to attributes such as vitamin and mineral content, fiber content, 100% juice content, Omega-3 or low saturated fat content, whole grain content, calcium content, protein content, low or reduced sodium content and low or reduced caloric content. The first phase of the program launched in 2009 covering center store food products, with coverage of fresh food departments rolling out in 2011.[3]


The NuVal Nutritional Scoring System is a joint venture formed in 2008 by Topco Associates, LLC, and Griffin Hospital of Derby, Conn., a non-profit community hospital and home to the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. The team worked for two years to develop the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), a patent-pending algorithm which converts complex nutritional information into a single, easy-to-use score. The ONQI algorithm is now the scientific engine behind the NuVal System. It looks at over 30 factors to determine the score, including the calorie density and Omega-3 content.[4]

The NuVal System scores food on a scale of 1-100.[4] The higher the NuVal Score, the better the nutrition. NuVal Scores are displayed directly on shelf price tags, so shoppers can compare overall nutrition the same way they compare prices. Just look for the NuVal System’s double-hexagon emblem and 1-100 food score on shelf tags. Some of the country’s leading grocery chains feature the NuVal System in their stores including Amigos, Bel Air, Big Y, Brookshire's, City Market, Coborn's, Festival, Food City, HyVee, King Kullen, King Soopers, Lowes Foods, Mariano's, Market Street, Meijer, Metro Market, Nob Hill, Price Chopper, Raley's, Scolari's, Super 1 Foods, Tops Markets, and United.[4]

POINTS Food System

Weight Watchers developed the POINTS Food System for use with their Flex Plan. Healthy weight control is the primary objective of the system. The system is designed to allow customers to eat any food while tracking the number of points for each food consumed. Members try to keep to their POINTS Target, a number of points for a given time frame. The daily POINTS Target is personalized based on members' height, weight and other factors, such as gender. A weekly allowance for points is also established to provide for special occasions, mistakes, etc.[5]

Systems used in the past

Smart Choices Program

Launched late in 2009, the Smart Choices Program was a rating system developed by a coalition of companies from the food industry. The criteria for rating food products used 18 different attributes, however, the system had varying levels of acceptability based on 16 types of food which allowed for wide discretion in the selection of foods to include in the program. The program was discontinued in October 2009 after sharp criticism for including products such as "Froot Loops", "Lucky Charms" and "Frosted Flakes" as Smart Choices. As a consequence of the backlash from the program, General Mills announced on December 10, 2009 that it would reduce the amount of sugar in many of its cereal brands.

See also

Portal icon Food portal
Portal icon Health and fitness portal
Main list: List of basic nutrition topics


Dangers of poor nutrition


Healthy diet:




Related topics


  1. ^ Brouns et al. (2005). "Glycaemic index methodology." Nutrition Research Reviews 18; 145-171
  2. ^ Nutripoints: Healthy Eating Made Simple! (1990–2010) and website (2010).
  3. ^ Fresh Ideas for Healthy Eating: SUPERVALU® Expands “nutrition iQ®” Program, SUPERVALU, January 13, 2011
  4. ^ a b c Leland, Mark (July 26, 2010). "New system compares food at grocery store". WLUK. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  5. ^ WeightWatchers website. (2007). "The Flex plan and the Core Plan: Food plans tailored to fit your life.". 

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