Food Scores at Your Fingertips

2014FoodScores_C01There is so much to keep in mind when you are shopping for food: organic, natural, GMOs, trans-fats, low-calorie sweeteners, fat replacers, dyes and preservatives. It can be overwhelming. That is why the Environmental Working Group has developed a new comprehensive interactive online database – and free app – that get us to make “healthier, greener and cleaner food” choices. Please welcome EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate. Come and Cook with Us!

When you are at the farmer’s market, you know that a tomato is a tomato is a tomato. Not so if you are looking to buy processed, or even lightly processed foods. Labels help, but they often tell only half the story. Food Scores is here to help. This new database has been three years in the making and rates more than 80,000 packaged foods from 1,500 brands providing information on the quality of ingredients, the level of nutrition and how much processed it is. An associated free app offers on-demand information by scanning a barcode with your smart phone.

The database assigns a rating falling between 1 and 10 to each product, with 1 being the best possible score and 10 the worst. Overall, only 18% of the products fall into what can be considered “green area”, while 25% were “red”. The remaining 57% linger somewhere in between. Top findings go beyond the nutritional information contained on the labels. It provides qualitative explanations if the ingredients are organic, likely to be GMOs, produced using growth hormones or antibiotics and including high levels of saturated fats, added sugar or contaminants like BPA, mercury, arsenic, dyes, preservatives and more. All-in-all, the app is helpful even if many of the products I tested were not included in there database just yet.

What I like best about this tool is that it increases transparency. And we can use the help. Yes, food labels are informative, but sometimes it is easy to forget to check for all the red flags or to figure out what all the enticing words on the glossy packaging are NOT saying.

Let me know what you learn from using Food Scores; whether playing with the database on the EWG’s website or scanning away at the supermarket.  And don’t be too hard on yourself. We learn more every day and this is just one of many inputs that will help us make “heatlhier, greener and cleaner” food choices. Come and cook with us!

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