Saturday, 4 October 2008

Can the ONQI help you in the grocery store?

What's the better choice:
a. Hellmann’s Regular Mayonnaise or b. Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise?
a. Regular Smooth Peanut Butter or b. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter?
a. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes or b. Kellogg’s Reduced Sugar Frosted Flakes?

Dr. Katz from Yale University’s Griffin Prevention Research Centre has developed a tool that can help you answer these questions; it’s called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (
ONQI). It’s a system that scores foods from 1 to 100 based on a variety of nutritional criteria including calories, sugar, sodium, fibre and fat, with the goal of helping consumers choose among the over 45000 products found in the average grocery store.
If you live in the States, you will likely see the ONQI scores in your local supermarket very soon, if it’s not there already.
Using the ONQI, all the answers in the above cases are a.
Some food items that are scored highest according to the ONQI scale (scores of 100) include broccoli, blueberries, oranges and green beans.
Some of the items that are scored lowest include popsicle, soda and taffy (all with scores of 1), saltine crackers and regular cut bacon (scores of 2).
Sound like a pretty good system.

However, according to Marion Nestle (Professor of Nutrition and Public Health) , it’s far from perfect. She points out that the scale makes some highly processed foods look better than other highly processed foods (see the Frosted Flakes example above) and is all about marketing, not health. She takes the position that the ONQI should not be allowed and suggest you pay no attention to it if you happen to see it in the grocery store.


Dr. Roy Vartabedian said...

Dr. Katz is reinventing the wheel. We developed the original 0-100 food rating system called Nutripoints in 1990. The Nutripoints(TM) Program for Optimal Nutrition has been used for nearly 18 years now worldwide. Nutripoints rates 3600+ basic foods, brand name foods, and fast foods for 26 key nutrients and gives one Nutripoint score, which tells you the overall nutritional value of the food. Eat 100 Nutripoints from 6 food groups each day and you will achieve the goals and recommendations of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Dietetics Association automatically. The goal is Healthy Eating Made Simple! The program has been used successfully by individuals, patients, and wellness program participants in the U.S. and abroad. There is a free Nutripoint QuickCheck(TM) on our website ( for those who would like to try it out to evaluate their diet.

Gina said...

Thanks for sending my your link! So, I checked out the blog post by the lady that viewed this system as a "marketing strategy", but I just don't agree. Regarding the reduced sugar, vs the regular frosted flakes, I would be MORE skeptical if they scored the Reduced Sugar as a higher number, because wouldn't that be lending more credibility towards a "new product" thus wouldn't that be more of a marketing strategy? It looks like they took out the sugar in the product, and replaced it with sodium anyway, so I can see where they didn't give it a better score.

Also, why they heck would we want the FDA to do this for us? They are the ones who have created the food label, and standardized label terms, which have NOT been updated since 1990! We still use Daily Values based off of OLD RDA values. Yikes. I'd rather keep the FDA out of it.

Just my thoughts :)