What Do Food Labels Mean?

If you have been grocery shopping recently, you might have noticed the new food labels that local grocery stores use to show the nutritional information of certain foods.

Grocery stores and manufacturers use these labels as their own nutritional rating systems and to draw consumers’ attention to healthy food options.

These new labels make use of scores, colors, or symbols and are put on shelves or on food packages to indicate how a product fares in terms of calories, fiber, fat, sodium and other nutrients.

Each nutrition rating system uses different criteria. They may include federal dietary guidelines and/or contributions from registered dietitians.

These tags are not the same as the Nutrition Facts label mandated by the Food and Drug Administration on most prepared foods.

These nutrition rating systems are put up grocery store owners to help consumers make smart food choices and aren’t meant to replace the Nutrition Facts label that provides detailed information, including the amounts of key nutrients in a food. Their purpose is to make it easy to spot items that have the most nutritional value.

However, these grocery store nutrition rating systems aren’t standardized, and it’s not always clear how the health ratings are determined.

Some of the new nutrition rating systems include:

  • Guiding Stars. This system, developed by Hannaford Supermarkets, uses one, two or three stars to represent good, better and best nutritional value.
  • Healthy Ideas. This system, developed by Giant Food and Stop & Shop, uses the Healthy Ideas logo on products they deem healthy.
  • Nutrition IQ. This system, developed for the SuperValu chain of stores, uses colored bars to highlight an item’s main nutritional benefits.
  • NuVal. This system, developed for Price Chopper and Hy-Vee stores, rates products from 1 to 100, with higher scores signaling greater nutritional value.
  • Smart Choices. This system, developed by a coalition of food companies and health professionals, is available for use by any food manufacturer or retailer. Foods that pass muster carry the Smart Choices check mark logo.

If you need help figuring out what foods are healthy choices, talk to your doctor or dietitian.

Source: MayoClinic

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