NuVal food system makes healthy choices easy as one, two, three

Hy-Vee's NuVal system ranks foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on their nutrition.

If you've ever struggled shopping for healthy foods, a new nutritional system at the South Hy-Vee in Ottumwa will make avoiding the foods with hidden sugars and fats a lot easier.

The store has adopted the NuVal system, which ranks foods on a scale from one to 100 based on their nutritional value. The higher the score, the better the nutrition.

The system was developed by nutrition and medical experts at Griffin Hospital, a teaching affiliate with Yale University School of Medicine, and Hy-Vee South is the only store in the Midwest to adopt NuVal thus far.

The NuVal rating is printed on every shelf tag, right next to the price of an item. In the produce section, they're printed on the signs above each selection. Almost everything in the produce section is rated a 100.

Registered Hy-Vee dietician Heather Ware said the system can surprise many shoppers who are used to picking the same items, or who give snack items to their kids without thinking of the nutritional value. Many of the fruit snacks carried at the store are given the rating of one.

The system can also encourage developing healthier choices over time.

"The way I like to have people use NuVal, though, is to use it as a trade-up system, you can take a product you may normally eat, let's say a breakfast cereal that scores a nine, to improve your nutrition," Ware said. "You could then look for a higher score on the shelf next time, possibly purchase a cereal that scores, say, a 34. So you know you're getting a few more good for you things because the score is higher. And then ultimately, we can get you up to the highest scoring item we have in our cereal aisle, which is an 89."

Every packaged product at Hy-Vee is ranked on the NuVal scale, in-house items, like foods purchased from the kitchen or bakery, are the only foods that are not.

To learn more about the NuVal system, visit the

official website