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Learning to Trade Up

February 25, 2010

Today I stopped into my favorite grocery store Hy-Vee for a few necessities: bread, milk, and apples.  I grabbed my usual organic skim milk and fuji apples (on sale this week- woohoo!) and headed to the bread aisle.

The bread aisle is one of the places in the grocery store where I usually spend a lot of time picking up bread, scanning the label, putting it back…picking up another one and so on.  My husband’s criteria for bread are that it is big (the 45 cal a slice kind doesn’t cut it), hearty, but not too dense, and soft but not too soft.  My criteria are that it is primarily whole grain, doesn’t contain HFCS, and doesn’t have anything partially hydrogenated in the ingredients list.  So you can see why this takes awhile…

Lucky for me, a few months ago Hy-Vee started including NuVal scores on many of the products in the store (and then later I learned even more about NuVal from Tina!)  In a nutshell, NuVal scores calculate the nutritional quality of food items by analyzing the nutrients and breaking it down to one number that consumers can use to make more informed choices.  Good stuff goes in the numerator, bad stuff goes in the denominator and the final numbers can be used to compare products to one another.  The numbers range from 1 to 100, but not all product categories can get 100.  Makes sense to me, I noticed most things in the produce section are in the 90’s, but many of the packaged products don’t get that high.

wonder nature pride  oroweat

So, back to the bread aisle.  I snapped some pics with my phone to remember these scores.  The highest bread score I saw was 44 (although not every bread had a score), which was on Oroweat Whole Grain & Flax bread.  The lowest score I saw was good old white Wonder bread at 23.  Something I thought was interesting was the middle one above – Nature’s Pride Stone Ground Whole Wheat, which only scored a 26.  I thought this was interesting because it met my criteria with whole grains and had all the right things on the front of the package, which you can kind of see: “No Trans Fats, No Artificial Flavors or Colors, and No HFCS.”  I’m not exactly sure what drove this score to be lower and am surprised it was closer to the Wonder bread than the Oroweat.  It’s something I would have picked up expecting it to be a healthier choice, but with the simple presentation of the NuVal score, I was steered toward a better choice.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope it’s good!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 5:58 pm

    Hello Bridget –

    Great post, I’m glad you’ve found NuVal and are enjoying it’s simplistic beauty for nutritional guidance. My name is Rachel Rodek MS, RD, LDN and I’m the Nutrition Communications Manager at NuVal. I wanted to help provide more understanding as to why the breads you mentioned score as they do.

    Ounce for ounce, the Wonder Bread has a greater amount of sodium and lesser amount of fiber than the other two breads, driving it’s score down. Although the Nature’s Pride bread touts that it has no HFCS, it still uses brown sugar, honey, white sugar, and molasses – which actually boosts it’s sugar content to almost twice the amount in the Oroweat, bringing it’s score down. The Oroweat scores so much higher because of the addition of flax, which provides health-benefitting Omega-3 fatty acids – a huge driver of scores.

    I hope this helps!


  2. March 4, 2010 1:56 pm

    Check for “whole wheat flour” on the label — versus “wheat flour.” Big difference. Whole wheat is just that. But “wheat flour” is often listed properly as the ingredient but the label will say “whole wheat” (essentially, a lie).

    It’s little things like this that factor into the score and quality in general. Also, flax pumps up the score of the bread you ended up choosing.

    Overall, it’s best to avoid any bread wrapped in plastic. They ALL contain preservatives and some more than others. Preservatives bad!!!

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