How well do you know your nutrition?

If you want to have some fun play the Nutrition by Numbers game that NuVal recently posted on their website.  (Click on Play Game at the bottom of the NuVal home page.)

Don’t be surprised, however, when it turns out that putting 3 products in order from most to least nutritious turns out to be trickier than you thought. I was wrong almost as often as I was right – at first.  (Would YOU know that chocolate soy milk beats out creamed spinach by 30 points?)

Then I remembered, there are only 3 things you need to know about a food to know about its nutritional value:

  • how processed it is
  • how much fat it contains
  • whether or not it’s loaded up with added sugars

I went back to play another round of Nutrition by Numbers using these criteria and my score improved a lot.

(See It Doesn’t Matter WHAT Your Kids Eat, and It’s Too Simple for more on this topic.)

Here’s a quick cheat-sheet for playing Nutrition By Numbers.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables always score higher than any processed food.
  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables almost always score higher than processed foods.
  • Fruits and veggies trump chicken, meat and fish.
  • Fish trumps chicken and meat.
  • Meat and fish usually trump processed foods.
  • Guessing between 3 processed foods is basically a crapshoot.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course.

  • Old-Fashioned Kettle-Cooked Cape Cod Potato Chips 40% Reduced score 32 (out of 100 for top nutrition) and Birds Eye Carrots and Cranberries only scores 22.
  • Snyders of Hanover Original Tortilla Chips score amazingly well: 31.
  • Del Monte Quality Sweet Bavarian Style Sauerkraut is a nutritional wasteland: 2.

In general, though, fruits and vegetables are your winners.  Even iceberg lettuce (82) beats a pork tenderloin (35)

Nutrition by Numbers is only necessary when you are considering processed foods. If you stick primarily to fruits, vegetables and low-fat proteins, you can easily go-it-alone.

If you are wondering whether Cap’n Crunch Sweetened Corn & Oat Cereal is a better bet than Wonder Cinnamon Raisin Bread – it is – or whether you should give your kids Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies or Nabisco Mini Teddy Grahams (it’s basically a push), then you need Nutrition by Numbers.  There’s no other way to make sense of things.

But if you make processed foods a minimal part of your kids’ eating habits, you can disregard the nutrition numbers.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~