Yesterday was a big day at HueTrition. We unveiled our newest tool designed to help make eating well easier – the HueApproved Scanner™. The scanner helps make finding the right products easier. Simply scan a product and the tool will return a HueScore™ – that is a number between 0 – 7 that represents how healthy a products is.
But what does it mean for a product to be healthy? Nowadays, you can see all sorts of products marked as healthy, fat-free, sugar-free, etc, its hard to know what to buy. But the only way to be sure is to look at the label. The FDA is working to redefine what it means for a product to be marked healthy, but in the meantime, it can still be difficult to know which products are the right ones for a healthy lifestyle. So, we asked one of our HueDietitians, Linn Steward, who worked diligently to develop the criteria used in the scanner.
“Trying to reduce something as radiantly complex as food down to a couple of nutrients is insane. Gathering the nutrient data however was a necessary first step. Now we need to start putting the parts back together again so we can look at food as a whole.”
When developing a way to gauge the healthiness of products, we wanted to ensure that we embraced several core beliefs that HueTrition holds about leading a healthy lifestyle:
- That real whole minimally processed food cooked at home is usually a healthy choice.
- That packaged products are convenient and unavoidable and okay, just not a healthy choice for every meal every day.
- That healthy eating is based on a pattern of choices and not on a single food, ingredient, macronutrient, or micronutrient.
- That food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts.
- That a wide range of products and foods can fit into a healthy pattern.
- That dietitians and food coaches are on staff to help individuals develop their own healthy pattern.
But in order to build that healthy pattern, you need to understand the products you put into it and the role they play. This is where the HueApproved Scanner™ comes into play. When you scan an item, we fetch the nutrition label from the USDA database and analyze several parts, looking for key factors about each and using the % Daily Value (DV) to determine if a serving of the food is high or low.
Sodium: The first thing we look at is the amount of sodium the product has. The recommended Daily Value of sodium is 2300mg, according to FDA 2016 rulings. Too much sodium can be detrimental to a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at the infrographic provided by The American Heart Association to see what too much sodium can do. Sodium is a nutrient to get less of.
✓ = below 2016 DV percentage
✗= above 2016 DV percentage
Saturated Fat: You may have heard about this naughty macro. NB: The role of saturated fat in the diet remains controversial. FDA is currently re-evaluating the role of all fats in a healthy pattern but have not yet released revised guidance for manufacturers. However, Saturated Fat is a nutrient to get less of.
✓ = below DV percentage
✗= above DV percentage
Sugar: We all know about this culprit. It seems like these days, there is sugar in everything, even items you least suspect, like marinara sauce or peanut butter. Experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many other chronic diseases. It’s been know to increase risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression. It can accelerate the rate of skin aging and cellular aging. It can even cause acne. As if that’s not enough, consuming too much sugar will lead to energy drain, making it that much harder to stay at a healthy weight or keep up with a hectic life. Which is why we award a point to products with less than 15% of its calories deriving from sugar. Don’t worry, you can slice have that slice of cake every once in awhile!
Total sugars include both natural sugars from fruit and milk plus added sugars by the manufacturer. Added sugars are nutrients to get less of. Added sugars are required on the Nutrition Facts Label but many labels have not been updated yet. Therefore, until implementation is complete, HueApproved™ is using percentage o calories from Total Sugars.
✓ = total sugars above 15% calories
✗ = total sugars below 15% calories
Fiber: This nutrient is essential for a healthy diet. We could all use a little more fiber in our diet. Daily Value for 2016 Nutrition Facts Label = 28 gm. However, majority of people only get 15-17 grams of fiber in their diet. You’ve probably heard the benefits fiber has on digestion. But this fantastic nutrient can also help to maintain a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. It also helps control blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol levels, and even helps you live longer! Which is why we award a point to products that are high in fiber. Dietary fibers are nutrients to get more of.
DV: 28 mg
✓ = above DV percentage
✗ = below DV percentage
Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women. But not only is protein essential to making muscles, tendons, organs and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve many important functions, consuming enough protein also has several benefits, such as helping with weight loss, preventing weight gain and aiding in muscle gain. So we award a point to products high in protein. Protein is a nutrient to get just the right amount of.
DV: 50 mg
✓ = above DV percentage
✗ = below DV percentage
Ingredients: Real whole minimally processed food cooked at home is usually the healthiest choice. However, packaged products provide added convenience and are unavoidable for today’s busy lifestyles. So for the final factor we’ve chosen to include an ingredient check. An apple of course, if it had a nutrition facts label, would only have one ingredient. An apple is always a good choice for a healthy pattern. Some highly processed foods have a lot more ingredients listed on the label and these items include preservatives, sweeteners, color additives, flavor enhancers, spices, fat replacers, nutrient fortification, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, binders, texturizers, leavening agents, anti-caking agents, humectants, yeast, dough conditioners, enzymes, gases. Food additives are regulated by the FDA and the FDA position is these additives are safe. Our position is the fewer the better and we’ve chosen a cut off point.
✓ = 11 or less ingredients listed
✗ = more than 11 ingredients listed
Once we understand the role nutrition plays in our diets and how to read Nutrition Labels, we can start to learn how to balance out diets to ensure that we are getting what we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, one that can include your favorite dessert! And with so many products to choose from, it helps to have a tool like the HueApproved Scanner™ in our pocket.