The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

A Winning Score – This School Year and Beyond!

A Winning Score – This School Year and Beyond!

Dietitian Dialogues

August 29, 2010

This time of year often represents a re-beginning of sorts. For school age children and their parents or caregivers, it may mean starting to school for the first time, or maybe new classrooms, teachers and friends. There’s a lot of newness going on in the nutrition world as well. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are jointly issued and updated every five years by the United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). They provide authoritative advice for people two years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. The final report of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee was released in June 2010.

The report and recommendations focus on two major themes driven by the obesity epidemic in our country affecting both children and adults:

  • Caloric balance
  • Nutrient density

Both factors are associated with excessive intake of added sugars and solid fats (saturated and trans). If a food is nutrient dense, it provides substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories. In addition, these foods are lean or low in solid fats without added sugars, starches or sodium and retain naturally occurring components such as fiber.

A focus on children’s health predominates as a powerful public health approach to combating and reversing the obesity epidemic. In relation to food and nutrients, morefruits and vegetables, less sugar-based beverages and juice, smaller portions andless food from quick-serve restaurants are in order. More active play – and lesssedentary time (television, video games, computers) – helps to provide energy balance that contributes to desirable body weight.

In March 2010, United Supermarkets, LLC, became the first grocer in Texas to implement the nutritional scoring system called NuVal™ (short for nutritional value). This system helps you cut through the clutter of nutritional information so you can make informed decisions about food quickly, easily and with confidence. It provides comprehensive nutritional information in one simple number between 1 and 100; the higher the score, the better the nutrition

Scores are calculated using a sophisticated system that looks at more than 30 different attributes of food. However, it is so user-friendly that everyone – from the youngest to the oldest – can use it. We’ve all grown up with scores and use them all the time, whether in the form of grades in school or to determine the success of our favorite sports team. NuVal™ scores are part of the price tags located on our supermarket shelves. By the way, this scoring system is based on incorporatingDietary Guidelines for Americans into food purchasing decisions and sustainable dietary habits.

As we think of real-life ways to practice concepts mentioned above, I would like to share an easy muffin recipe that makes a great breakfast or after-school snack. I often make a batch ahead of time, then freeze and pull out just what I need to maintain freshness. Whole Wheat Flax’n Apple Muffins** includes ingredients that have higher NuVal™ scores and contribute to a nutrient dense food. Let’s look at specific ingredients and scores:

  • Ground flax seed = 100
  • Whole graham or whole wheat flour = 91 (white flour = 77)
  • Canola oil = 24 (versus vegetable oil = 16)
  • Fat free milk = 91 (versus whole milk = 52)
  • Fresh apple = 96
  • Walnuts = 82; natural almonds = 81; or pecans = 65 (I use walnuts!)

It is important to note that all food categories do not go as high as 100 in the scoring system (such as oils). The idea is to choose the highest scoring product within each category that you or your family will enjoy! Overall, this muffin recipe is higher in beneficial nutrients and lower in those shown to have a negative impact on health according to most current scientific evidence. If you want to reduce sugar content, you could use ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup Splenda™ and end up with an equally acceptable product. Enjoy! 

** Whole Wheat Flax’n Apple Muffins


1⁄4 cup (3/4 oz) ground flax seed 
3⁄4 cup (4 oz) Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Graham Flour (or whole wheat flour) 3⁄4 cup (3 1⁄2 oz) all-purpose flour 
1⁄2 (3 1⁄2 oz) cup sugar 
2 tsp baking powder 
1⁄2 tsp baking soda 
1⁄2 tsp salt 
1 egg, beaten 
3 Tbsp (1 1⁄2 fl oz) canola oil 
1⁄2 (4 1⁄4 fl oz) cup fat free milk 
1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped apples 
1⁄2 cup chopped nuts


1. Blend dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine egg, vegetable oil and milk.
2. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir until just blended. Fold in apples and nuts. Batter will be thick.
3. Fill well-greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400°F for 18 to 20 minutes or until top springs back when touched.

Yield: 12 servings (1 serving = 1 muffin) 

Source: Hodgson Mill

Nutritional analysis per serving: calories 180, calories from fat 70, total fat 8g, saturated fat 1g, trans fat 0g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 250mg, total carbohydrate 24g, dietary fiber 2g, sugars 11g, protein 4g, vitamin A 0%, vitamin C 2%, calcium 4%, iron 6% IS2010

Tyra M. Carter holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Family and Consumer Science Education from Texas Tech University with a research focus on childhood health problems. Prior to joining the United Supermarkets team, the focus of her career was in academia both at the university level and in nursing education. As Corporate Dietitian, Dr. Carter is responsible for nutrition education for team members, store guests and United Supermarkets community partners. Visit for more information about upcoming Health and Wellness initiatives at United Supermarkets, LLC.

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at