Grocery Store Nutrition Ranking Systems

A lot of us have seen grocery store chains develop nutrition labels and information to help us better understand the content of what we are purchasing.  For some, it can be a helpful tool.

David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of “101 Foods that Could Save Your Life”, and the newly released “101 Optimal Life Foods” summarizes a number of nutrition ranking programs that have been popping up on food products.  The article was published in Bottom Line Health (October 2009). Safeway also came out with a relatively recent program summarized below. Here’s a snapshot of these programs:

  1. Guiding Stars. The program was developed by a panel of expert nutrition scientists. It has been implemented in ~1,450 East Coast grocery stores in the United States (US).  Some of these retailers include Hannaford, Food Lion, Bloom and Sweetbay.  This program may soon be implemented nationwide. Over 45,000 items are scored using a system of credits and debits. Credit items include vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and whole grains.  Debited items consist of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sodium, and added sugars.  “Foods are rated only when credit outweighs debits,” states Grotto, “so some foods such as canned vegetables and whole-fat yogurt, are not rated with this system.”   Additional categories that are not included in the rating include alcoholic beverages, bottled water, spices, coffee and tea. Guiding stars ranking system consists of stars-one for good, two for better, and three for best rating. For more information go to
  2. Healthy Ideas. This program was developed by a panel of nutritionists, along with an advisory board including physicians, food industry executives, and others.  Retailers utilizing this logo include Giant Good and Stop & Shop. For a particular product to qualify, it must meet criteria established by the FDA and USDA guidelines as a “healthy” item. Additionally the product must contain 10% of the daily value of at least one or more nutrients such as vitamin A, C, protein, fiber, calcium or iron.  For more information go to and click on Healthy Ideas.
  3. NUVAL.  This program was also developed by a panel of independent health and nutrition experts and led by David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. The program is utilized at Kroger, Price Chopper, HyVee, and Meijer. It consists of a ranking system of 30 nutrients and nutrition factors, such as protein, sodium, cholesterol, omega fatty acids, etc. A product is ranked on its overall nutritional quality index (ONQI™) and how it fits into a healthy lifestyle. For more specific information go to www.nuval.
  4. Smart Choices Program. Launched in 2009, the program is a joint effort of food manufacturers along with the American Dietetic Association and American Heart Association. It was launched nationwide. Its ranking system is a check mark and is based on 19 product categories.  However, at present the program is being revamped. For more information go to
  5. Safeway. Safeway has launched their program titled Simple Nutrition. Products must meet nutrition and ingredient criteria, along with being tagged with two key benefit messages.  As stated on their website, “The Simple Nutrition criteria are based on the latest published health guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)/US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and food labeling guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA, and current available nutrition science.” Benefit shelf tags convey a benefit message from the manufacturer, such as made with whole grains, sodium smart, etc. For information go to

Susan M. Piergeorge, MS, RD
Registered DietitianNutrition Coach & Author of Boomer Be Well

This entry was posted in Food News, Health Maintenance, Nutrition and tagged Boomer Be Well, Boomer food and nutrition, food and nutrition, grocery store nutrition, Grocery store nutrition ranking systems, Guiding Stars, Nutrition Coach, Nuval, Registered Dietitian, Safeway Simple Nutrition, Smart Choice Program, Stop and Shop, Susan M. Piergeorge. Bookmark the permalink.

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