How To Use the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System To Help Assure Better Nutrition for You and Your Family

We Live in a Hailstorm of Accurate and Inaccurate Nutrition Information

Several years ago, researchers began looking for ways to simplify consumers' understandings of the complicated and sometimes misleading nutrition and ingredient information found on food labels and food packaging. There is no doubt that food nutrition labels, food ingredients labels, and advertising euphemisms have all come together in a hail of confusion that inhibits the ability to make informed decisions about nutrition.

One scoring system making inroads into getting to the bottom of which foods have the best nutrition is the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System. The NuVal scoring system evaluates nutrition components known to be beneficial against those that are considered not so beneficial and then returns a score of from 1 to 100 for a particular food or food product; the higher the number, the better the nutrition.

NuVal is not yet a household word. It's not a name as well-known as Pepsi or McDonald's or Chevrolet, although it could be in the near future. You will find NuVal scoring in a number of supermarkets in the US on the shelves that display product price tags. Product price tags are the labels that show you the price of the product package as it sits on the shelf as well as the price per unit of weight or volume of the package's contents. When supermarkets partner with NuVal, the NuVal labeling is impossible to miss.

What the NuVal Score Tells You

The NuVal Score tells you which foods are more nutritional than others. The definition of nutrition you need to know in order to make NuVal scoring work for you is based on:

...The Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs – quantitative reference values for recommended intakes of nutrients) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (advice from the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases) and...how these nutrients influence health based on broadly accepted, published scientific literature.*

In other words, the US government (in many partnerships with scientific institutions through a long period of time) has defined "nutrition", in layman's terms, as the body of ingested materials that are necessary to support life. Therefore, "good" nutrition implies that that the things we eat sustain life in an optimal way, while "not so good" nutrition implies the opposite.

The NuVal Score tells you that some foods have better nutrition than others, according to this currently understood definition of nutrition. This statement seems a bit convoluted, but giving credit to NuVal, their nutritional scoring system is doing a bang-up job in showing the relative nutritional value of both processed and non-processed foods.

One Major Supermarket's Take on NuVal

What the NuVal Score Doesn't Tell You

The NuVal score does not tell you how to manage your personal dietary needs. If you need a low-sodium diet, then the NuVal scores won’t help you, because sodium is a nutrient, but its presence in any given food is weighed against all other nutrients in that food, giving that food a certain score. Likewise, if you’ve been instructed to reduce the fats in your diet, the NuVal score won’t help you there either. The score does not isolate nutrients for your evaluation…that’s what the food nutrition and ingredients labels do. What this means is that there is no “NuVal diet” for any dietary goal.

Oranges Rate a 100 NuVal Score

Oranges rank with blueberries in nutrition value according to the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System. Photo at NuVal.com.
Oranges rank with blueberries in nutrition value according to the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System. Photo at NuVal.com.

How To Use the NuVal Score and How Not To Use It

There is definitely a place in your food planning and dietary management tasks for the NuVal score.

For example, when shopping for breakfast cereal, compare the scores of different oat cereal products. You might find that a favorite oat cereal brand has a much lower score than a new brand you haven’t tried. According to the NuVal score, the overall nutritional value is better in the new brand, and you might want to try it.

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to base your food intake only on choosing foods with high NuVal scores. Consider this: if one were to set dietary goals based on foods that score 90 or above, and there's a particular passion for blueberries and ice cream involved, it might be too easy to justify a diet that excludes other necessary food groups.

There's a delightful blog, written by a NuVal employee, that brings the every-day aspects of making good food choices down to an engaging, identifiable personal level. Visit A Better Bag of Groceries.

There's Debate over NuVal's Worth to the Consumer

Debate surrounds the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System for two main reasons: the algorithm used to determine the NuVal Score is proprietary information and thus not subject to public inspection or verification; and the term "better nutrition" is not synonymous with "healthy diet", thereby possibly misleading consumers who have specific dietary needs into thinking that foods with high NuVal scores must be good for them, despite their specific health needs.

The debate will go on for some time. Meanwhile, the NuVal website contains information that can help you decide whether this system can help you make good nutritional choices for you and your family. Certainly, some of the information in the site is geared toward influencing you to take a step in their direction; however, much more of the information provides an excellent education in learning how to make smart food choices despite the hailstorm and confusion of food product labeling and advertising claims.

Reasons To Visit the NuVal Site

  • Find NuVal scores for a number of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as packaged foods.
  • Download a comprehensive brochure describing the NuVal scoring system.
  • Learn what major food chains are participating in the NuVal program.
  • Read about the food nutrients and other factors that are and are not incorporated into the scoring system.
  • Suggest a retailer in your area that you’d like to see participate in the NuVal program.

Visit NuVal.

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© 2010 Sally's Trove. All rights reserved.

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Comments 20 comments

Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Hi Sally. I have not heard of nor seen the Nu-val system. I think it's a great idea. I know how complicated those pesky food labels can be, and in my opinion, they are sometimes purposefully misleading. As usual, a very well researched piece and easy on the brain. You have a way of speaking to your reader. (Who is that cowboy over there?)


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

ST, brilliant as usual. Well-researched and readable. I liked the bit about "hailstorm of accurate and inaccurate Nutrition information".

I will be happy to forward this to some friends who are in the retail business in India.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

I am not one for reading labels, as I find it too taxing on my brain. So, which do I pick? The one with low carbs but more sodium? one high in sugar but less sodium? The choices are daunting to say the least, sort of a juggling act for the brain.

This system sounds like it is doing well, and I'm guessing it will catch on in many supermarkets. It would be a good thing for me in terms of choosing foods for my granddaughter :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for reading and commenting with such good words, Cowboy. As I was putting this Hub together I was thinking about your low-sodium journey and sympathizing with you as I plowed through too many nutrition labels wanting to get the gist of the NuVal score. I gave myself a headache. :)

Fortunately, the perpetrators of purposely misleading nutrition and package labeling are being routed out and penalized, but it's a slow process!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Sabu my friend, I'd like to hear about nutrition labeling in India and what people think of it. Maybe that's a Hub for you? :p As always, thanks so much for reading and leaving your always encouraging words.

Trish, you bring up a good point about picking the lesser of two evils. If you don't have significant diet restrictions, then the NuVal score may work well for you, and your granddaughter too. Plus, that would be a great learning experience for her to go shopping with you with the NuVal score in mind.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Wow, this is interesting. Never heard of it before. Thanks.


FlyingPanther profile image

FlyingPanther 6 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

Sally, I never heard of it before so thank you for sharing this wonderful hub with us again very imformatic.

Love always.

FlyingPanther


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

alekhouse and FlyingPanther, I never heard of this system until a few days ago when I caught a not-so-favorable discussion about it on the radio, the primary criticism being that the NuVal system could be used for the wrong purposes (as I described above). Now I'm looking forward to it coming to a store near me. Thank you both for reading and commenting!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Never heard of it either - shows you can learn something every day - good info!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I had never heard of this system and have signed up to see what I can learn fom it. Thanks so much for the knowledge!

Love and peace

Tony


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

akirchner, there's so much happening every day it makes my head spin! Glad you found this intro into an up and coming nutrition scoring system good. :)


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Tony, I'm glad you signed up. As far as I can tell, this company has only a national (American) focus. But I think they'd find it interesting that international readers concerned with nutrition and labeling, such as you and Sabu, are finding the NuVal system worth looking at. Who knows? Perhaps you and Sabu may corner the distribution rights to NuVal in your respective countries!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for your excellent hub and wonderful information.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Hh,you are very welcome! Thank you for the good words.


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 6 years ago from USA

I'm always reading the labels, and will look seriously at the NuVal information! I think the more we know, the better we eat. Or not, but at least it's our choice! Thanks for this informative guide and here's to a healthier table and pantry for us all!

I know this will help me as I reach for what I normally buy and encouarge me to try newer and perhaps healthier products! I'm going to be paying attention to this score, I learned a lot here.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Marisue, the NuVal scoring system has yet to make an appearance in our local supermarkets, so I haven't had first-hand experience with using it as a "strategy" in my food shopping. But I agree with you that paying attention to the NuVal scores will definitely encourage me to try new products. Glad you found this to be an informative guide!


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 6 years ago from USA

Oh, I see that now. duh, well, I can always suggest one, maybe WalMart will get in the swing of it! I am thinking new products might like to have the NuVal score or rating...might encourage products to be more "nutritional!"

always learning from you...


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Check out the NuVal site (the link is above in the Hub). There's a form on there to fill out where you can suggest a store for NuVal participation. I'll bet a lot of people have suggested WalMart, but maybe not enough!


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

This is something new to me, thanks for sharing. We need to know what we are putting in our mouth. Voted up.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 3 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Vellur. I wonder if NuVal has any presence in Dubai?

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