What is the Food Grade?

  • 9 Minutes Read
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

What is the Food Grade?

You are at the grocery store staring at 100 boxes of breakfast cereal. How do you decide which one is healthier? If you have the time and interest, you might pick up several boxes and read the Nutrition Facts panel. 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 - it is called "Food Grade." The Food Grade is based upon a food scoring system which is described in the section below. Most folks prefer to view the Food Grade for each food item, so that is the default view.

How is the Food Grade Calculated?

Food Grade is a letter ( A, B, C or D) corresponding to Food Score number as explained below.

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 required 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.

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. Protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron will also have a positive effect on the score. The reverse is true for saturated fat - foods higher in that type of fat will have a lower Food Score. Total fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, and sugars will also have a negative effect on the score. For more detailed information about the Food Score and how it is calculated, see Appendix A below.

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

Item Serving Size Food Score
SpaghettiOs spaghetti in tomato and cheese sauce 1 cup -1
Spaghetti cooked, enriched, without salt 1 cup 2
Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked 1 cup 4

If you log a larger or smaller serving size, then your score will be higher or lower, depending upon the nutrient content. For example, 1 cup of olive oil has a Food Score of -24 whereas 1 tablespoon is -1 and 1 teaspoon is 0.

Some people have a good feel for numbers whereas others prefer grades. The relationship between the Food Score and Food Grade is a simple conversion developed by MyNetDiary. Higher positive numbers are considered healthier by this food scoring system so their Food Grade is higher. Negative numbers are considered less healthy so their Food Grade is lower.

Food Grade Food Score
A >= 1.5
A- 1
B+ 0.5
B 0
B- -0.5
C+ -1
C -1.5
C- -2
D+ -2.5
D <= -3

How Should I Use this Food Grade?

The Food Grade is not meant to be used as a measure of a food's worth. Use Food Grade simply to compare similar types of foods. As often as you can, choose to consume foods and beverages with higher Food Grades (e.g. A vs. D). By doing so, you will more likely be choosing foods that are:

Limitations of the Food Grade

Hiding Food Grade

If you want to hide Food Grade from view on food labels and meal reports, then you can do that via Plan / Nutrient Targets for web and Android apps, or via Food Entry Setting in iPhone app (open a meal then tap the 3-dot icon at the top right of the screen, then tap Settings).

Appendix A: Food Score Formula

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. Read the article for more detail about how and why the Food Score was created.

FoodScore= 0.710
- 0.0538 * Total Fat
- 0.423 * Saturated Fat
- 0.00398 * Cholesterol
- 0.00254 * Sodium
- 0.0300 * Total Carbs
+ 0.561 * Fiber
- 0.0245 * Sugars
+ 0.123 * Protein
+ 0.00562 * Vitamin A
+ 0.0137 * Vitamin C
+ 0.0685 * Calcium
- 0.0186 * Iron

Last Updated on May 18, 2020

May 12, 2020

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