What is the Food Score?

You are at the grocery store staring at 100 boxes of breakfast cereal. How do you decide which one is the healthiest? If you have the time and interest, you might pick up several boxes and read the Nutrition Facts panel. You look for one that has less fat, sugar, and sodium yet still provides a good amount of fiber and protein. But which nutrients are more important to pay attention to – the ones that can be harmful, the ones that are beneficial, or both? Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was a way to score foods so that both harmful and beneficial components are taken into account with one number? MyNetDiary has such a scoring system for every item in the food database. It is called “Food Score.”

What Does the Score Mean?

Food Score indicates a food’s relative healthfulness compared to other similar foods. It is intended to help you make healthier selections within categories of foods, for instance, breakfast cereals, types of milk, or frozen entrees.

Most Food Scores will vary from -5 (very unhealthy) to +5 (very healthy) for serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. For instance:

Item Serving Size Food Score
Butter, unsalted 1 tablespoon - 3.3
Pasta, enriched, without added salt 1 cup cooked +1.5
Green beans, boiled without salt 1 cup +3.7

There are cases where very large serving sizes of foods can cause the score to be extremely low (e.g. −59 for 1 cup of unsalted butter). Large changes in portion sizes can change the Food Score.

How is the Food Score Calculated?

Food Score is calculated using an equation derived from food ratings of nutrition experts using information found on the Nutrition Facts panel. That is, Food Score mimics how a nutrition expert would score the healthfulness of a food based upon its nutrition label. The equation uses the content of twelve nutrients listed on the Nutrition Facts panel: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carb, fiber, sugar, protein, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. The methodology was published in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, in the article “Modeling Expert Opinions on Food Healthfulness: A Nutrition Metric” by Jolie M. Martin, MBA, PhD; John Beshears, AM; Katherine L. Milkman; Max H. Bazerman, PhD; Lisa A. Sutherland, PhD, and used by MyNetDiary with permission.

Some nutrients have a stronger effect on Food Score than others. For instance, fiber will affect Food Score more strongly and positively than any other nutrient. That means foods higher in fiber will score higher than foods that are lower in fiber. The reverse is true for saturated fat – foods higher in that type of fat will have a lower Food Score.

How Should I Use Food Score?

Use Food Score to help you compare foods so that you can make the most healthful choices for meals and snacks. You can also use it as a shopping tool – purchase foods and beverages with higher Food Scores.

As often as you can, choose to consume foods and beverages with the highest Food Score. By doing so, you will more likely be choosing foods that are:

  • Lower in saturated fat, total fat, total carbs, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium
  • Higher in fiber, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C

Other Notes About Food Score

  • It is not a point system where you strive to meet a total intake goal for meals or days (like Weight Watchers). It is intended to be used as a tool to compare individual foods.
  • Preparing a food with other ingredients will change its nutrient content and therefore, Food Score. Cooked brown rice made with butter and salt will not have the same Food Score as cooked brown rice made with just water. Food Score assesses and scores the nutrient information listed on the package – not for extra added ingredients.
  • It was developed using nutrients found only on the Nutrition Facts panel, so foods high in other important nutrients (e.g. omega-3 fats) may or may not have a high Food Score. Use common sense if you feel that a nutritious food should be included in your diet even though the Food Score is not as high as another food you deem less nutritious.
  • Does not include calories. Look at calories for weight control and use the Food Score to help you pick more nutritious choices so that you can better meet nutrient goals. You will still track both calories and nutrients.
  • The percentage of items with missing nutrient data (of the twelve used in Food Score) is small. However, there are cases when missing data will affect the Food Score. You can always view the food’s nutrient content if you suspect this is the case. Are values for any of the twelve nutrients missing? If so, then Food Score will not be valid for that item. Choose another item to compare instead.

iPhone, iPod, and iPad Users

To see the Food Score, simply bring up the food item in your meal screen. To the right of the calorie display, click on the little “I” icon to flip the screen. Once flipped, you will see nutrition information as well as Food Score pop into the center and then move to the upper top right hand corner of the screen.

All Users

You have the option to view the Food Score in the DAILY intake screen. Simply go to your PLAN section on the web, and select Food Score as a nutrient to track. It will then appear on your DAILY intake screen.

If you have questions about this topic then please visit MyNetDiary Community Forum and post your questions there. I look forward to reading your forum questions!

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

This article can be found at http://www.mynetdiary.com/food-score.html