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Easy info sells nutritious products, but the job can be even easier

September 6th, 2007 · No Comments · Food selection, Healthy eating, Research

Maybe most people really do want to eat healthier after all. That’s at least one conclusion you could draw from the Hannaford grocery chain’s year-long nutrition labeling experiment recounted in today’s New York Times.

I have to admit I’m surprised, but maybe that’s because I’ve been paying attention to nutrition information for a long time. I’ve been inclined to think that most people who eat badly just don’t care, but maybe lots of people don’t know nutrition basics or don’t sort through the sometimes-confusing information on the subject.

Maybe nutrition falls under the umbrella of “too much information.” Hannaford, by simplifying that information, has made more healthful buying easier.

The company’s Guiding Stars program (“Nutritious shopping made simply. [And easy. And practical. And fun.]”) labels everything with zero to three stars. More stars means more fiber, vitamins, minerals and whole grains and less sodium, cholestrol, trans fat, saturated fat and added sugar.

The test run of the program reported in the Times has gone on for a year—long enough for people to revert to their old habits if they tried the program as a novelty.

Interestingly, the one area where labels didn’t make any difference was in the produce department, presumably because people already knew fruits and vegetables are healthful. Nevertheless, that’s where I’d point you if you wanted to do just one thing to improve your nutritional intake.

Yep, if you want to improve your nutrition and start really simply, always buy and eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Make them fresh or frozen and not prepared with sauces or syrups. That one step will improve your diet—it might even crowd out some of the junk.

If that sounds too boring, go ahead and sprinkle them with a little sugar or a little salt. Drizzle a little vinaigrette over a multivegetable salad. You’ll still be ahead of the game. Tomorrow, I’ll offer some suggestions for how to get all those servings in every day. It’s not as hard as you think.


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