Grocery Cart Makeover

By: Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.  |  Friday, March 20, 2009
On the off chance that we run into each other at the grocery store, I guarantee you’ll find me poring over the ingredient list on the back of a package. I love food shopping and often spend hours perusing the aisles in search of the healthiest—and cheapest—items on the shelves. Then I head home to make delicious budget-friendly meals. But when I go to the store with my fiancé (who hates to shop), it has to be a quick in-and-out. Only price comparisons allowed! There’s no time to find the most nutritious cereal, pasta sauce, soup, etc. It’s sooo frustrating!
My savior: The latest rating system to hit supermarkets awards points to foods based on how nutritious they are. This easy-to-use tool allows me to compare foods sitting side-by-side on the grocery shelf.
Here’s how some common items in my grocery cart stack up:
Orange (100) vs. Apple (96)
An orange’s high vitamin C, folate and potassium content give it a perfect score. Apples, high in fiber yet relatively lower in other nutrients, score slightly lower.
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti (91) vs. Spaghetti (49)
Whole-wheat spaghetti has twice as much fiber as white spaghetti. It also contains magnesium and zinc, two nutrients found naturally in whole grains.
Steel-cut oats (60) vs. Honey Nut Instant Oatmeal (28)
The added sugar and salt in honey nut–flavored instant oatmeal bring its score down by more than half.