Monday, October 13, 2008

Relative Nutrition

I'm a little jealous of our American cousins. Not for their more dramatic election, their rich cinema scene or better shopping. I'm jealous of their Overall Nutritional Health Index being implemented in US grocery stores this month. I like lists, and this one combines food and health and aims and probably unfair hierarchy- except that hierarchy is the business of lists.

The ONHI assesses food based on the nutritional health value you receive for eating it, and stratifies each food according to this value. It's fascinating to read through and the relative value of foods you eat, disdain, think you shouldn't eat but discover are better for you than you thought. It's not surprising to see broccoli confirmed as a food champion with 100 points- everyone's been saying forever to eat your broccoli. It's surprising to see that orange juice at 39 is outranked by sodium free club soda ranks at 56 (I didn't think there was anything in club soda), and that cheese puffs are a 4, outranking milk chocolate (3) and apple pie (2).

It's like food gossip. Even better, it's designed and endorsed by scientists and dieticians so it's OK to snub some foods in favour of others now. Although I don't think I'm going to take up club soda at breakfast. But I might choose unbuttered, sunsalted popcorn (69) over prunes (45).

The ONHI was designed to assist consumers in selecting appropriate food choices. It's supposed to be a guide to the "relative nutriousness" of food. It's obviously true we need help, because we're increasingly unhealthy and making poor food choices, in North America at least. More interesting is that the ONHI is actually being posted in grocery stores, next to thousands of brands of food products, backed by an industry keen to sell its products to us. I find it hard to believe that Tropicana will accept their product being listed as a 39, it's completely against all of their marketing. Yet there it will be- generally, since the ONHI doesn't specifically mention Tropicana, just orange juice.

No doubt industry and producers will find ways of marketing around the ONHI, it will be discredited through its methods, and people will grow bored with it. Or maybe it will never really be noticed on the store shelves and never attract too much negative or positive attention. Maybe the politics and the economy will bury it and it will gradually leak into daily grocery shopping. I hope so. I want to be reminded that instant chocolate pudding is a 20, and thus not such a bad snacking choice, all things considered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

I live in Saint John, NB.

I am going to go on the famous Lemonade Diet soon.

And it requires Grade B Maple Syrup.

Where is the closest place to buy some

I live in Millidgeville

I checked sobeys, but couldnt understand the Canadian grading system.



gambinoh (at)