Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New 'Great For You' Logo is a Great Idea

Picture this: You’re standing in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and you want to make a healthy choice. But you’re faced with claims like, “Half your daily fiber needs,” “Lower in sugar” and even the cereals that look like they’re made with candy seem to scream out, “Made with whole grains.” What’s the best choice? If you’ve been in this situation before, you’re not alone.
As obesity and various nutrition-related health crises face many Americans today, health and food organizations have been looking for innovative ways to simplify the consumer’s decisions about food. This year, new initiatives will be rolled out in the grocery store, which can sometimes feel like a maze. 
We currently use the Nutrition Facts Label to asses the health of products in the grocery store. But I hear from many of my clients that it's very confusing. I spend a lot of time teaching clients to read labels so they can learn to make health-conscious decisions about the food they're buying. Organizations like the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) have proposed front-of-package labeling systems in an attempt to simplify the label and highlight important nutritional aspects. Some systems are already in place, and quite honestly, it doesn't seem to have helped.
The IOM and GMA have proposed new labeling systems that would rate packaged foods on a points scale: more points means it's a better choice. The rating, along with calorie information and nutrients to discourage, would appear on the front of packaged foods. Wal-Mart just brought their version to the table too--and if you ask me, they’re the bread-winner.
Wal-Mart recently unveiled the “Great For You” logo which will appear on its own brand products that meet certain nutritional criteria (or branded products that meet the standards). These criteria are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the latest science. There’s a two-step process used to determine if a product will be able to boast the new logo. First, the scheme considers "foods to encourage," as listed in the Dietary Guidelines: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds and lean meats. If a product meets this first standard, then the amounts of total, trans and saturated fats, sodium and added sugars ("nutrients to discourage") are considered. This system also considers non-packaged foods, like produce, which of course should get the seal of approval.
Will the public like it? I hope so. We have to get away from labeling foods as “good” and “bad.” Consuming a "bad" food often leads to feelings of guilt and failure, even if it isn't eaten very often. The “Great For You” approach helps us focus on the positive by highlighting some of the foods that are the very best to eat. And, this seems like a simple solution that can help consumers quickly pick out the healthiest items at the store. As I always say: healthy eating shouldn't be that difficult.
So, you’re back on the cereal aisle. Select a box that’s marked with the “Great For You” logo. Done.
Get ready. It’s coming this spring.
To read more about the new logo, nutrition criteria or download a list of products bearing the seal, click here.

Photo credit: Ambro