A New System to Help You Identify Affordable Nutrition

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Health conscious people desire to get the most nutrition for the least amount of money but for many of us, knowing how to do that can be difficult. I have previously written several articles related to recession eating that outline some strategies you can use. Now, there may be a new tool to help.

A new tool called the Affordable Nutrition Index (ANI) evaluated over 300 foods to assess the nutritional profile compared to cost to create a nutrition-value-per-dollar score. The nutrition value score takes into consideration nine essential nutrients that we should be including in our diet. The key nutrients included are protein, fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E. The score also takes into consideration three key nutrients that are important to limit in our diets, which are saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium. The ANI was introduced to Registered Dietitians at their Food and Nutrition Expo last week.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans were used as a guide for the ANI review and scoring which found that dark colored vegetables provided the best nutrition for the dollar with fruits and vegetable soup following behind as the most affordable nutritious foods. Some other key findings included:

  • Carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli were not only top vegetables but also at the very top of the ANI scale for all foods.

  • Oranges and bananas were the top scoring fruits. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, and apples also rated high as well.

  • Peas, string beans, squash and lettuce are other top picks to get the most nutrition for your dollar whether cooked or fresh.

  • Surprisingly, twenty-five Campbell's soups were evaluated with the ANI scale. Low sodium condensed vegetable soup varieties that are certified as heart-healthy by the American Heart Association were also top rating, cost-effective sources of nutrition.
It is unclear how this new ANI tool will be used in the future since it was just revealed. With the new updated Dietary Guidelines due in 2010 and a nation that is looking to eat well on a budget during tough times, I'm sure we will see more with this tool in the coming year.

Do you think a tool of this nature is helpful? How do you think it could best be used to benefit consumers?

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I found the article very interesting but I am skeptical because it was from Cambell's. What I would like to see is the glycemic index. Beets and Bananna's (though affordable) are really high and for those who are diabetics this could be dangerous. I am not a diabetic but I follow the glycemic index most of the time. I prefer to make my own soup so I am not getting the added sodium and chemicals that come in a can. Buy local (I find it is cheaper) and you help out the small business in your community (the farmer or orchard grower) and buy seasonal. Report
I'll just keep to checking ingredients... I got used to doing that since SparkPeople, and no longer will I follow commercial hype. I want to know the facts! Report
It sounds like it could help people prioritize what makes it into the shopping cart. I really like the idea. Report
I agree with many of you about the Campbell's soups. The sodium in them is appalling! I too have been trying to stay away from them. Homemade has a lot more taste & the salt flavor doesn't hit you in the face like a brick! Report
Kind of a "duh" that fresh fruits and veggies are making the list. Nature made them. How could they not be worth the money? Same for *really* whole grains: steel-cut oats, barley, millet, quinoa, etc.

Campbell's soup? Were they on sale the day of the study to make up for the crap in most of them? LMAO. Report
Really?? Canned soups??
I've been training myself to stay out of the canned foods aisle. Report
I found this site the other day and it is working on getting nutritional scores on ALL foods in grocery stores, and if it isn't set up in your store yet you can always look at the scores on the site itself in case the url doesnt come up do a search for NuVal scoring system.

http://www.nuval.com/Default.aspx Report
I'm concerned that Campbell's soups were specifically evaluated...
seems like they must have a hand in this somehow.

I don't trust anything where one brand seems to be pushed over others, especially when that brand is part of a huge conglomeration. Report
It's interesting that this study found fresh fruits and vegetables were both the most affordable and the most nutritious, when one of the biggest complaints about urban obesity is how unaffordable fresh fruits and vegetables are.

Without seeing the methodology, or the actual results, I think I'm going to remain skeptical. "Gosh, look, we thought fresh fruits and vegetables were going to win, so we did a study, and wow, we were right!" Report
Cool tool, but as others have said - why is eating so complicated? Buy whole, close to the source, seasonal and local, and you'll be saving money, guaranteed: fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, a bit of grass fed meat/poultry in the mix. Report
I doubt that any "study" or "poll" should be taken as gospel, but hey, something like this could be a big help used with some good old horse sense. I would sure like to see the list. Report
Yeah I think this toll would be helpful Report
What a great idea. the list would be worthwhile. Report
It is really a shame that eating has become so complicated. We have to look at what it is, where it came from, how it was grown, what was added, what was taken away, etc. Raw, unprocessed is good, in season is cheapest, and when you need some less expensive variety look to fresh frozen with nothing added. Especially when they go on sale for $1 per bag. When affordable fruit gets boring I buy small quantities of something different like 1 plum per family member or I cut up one piece of 2 or 3 different fruits and make a small fruit salad to share. Report
I would love nothing more but to eat more fresh fruit and veggie's. But right now we are a one income family because I am on a permanet medical leave and still waiting to hear about social security for me. And with just one income I find it hard to be able to afford to purchase them. The one I seem to beable to afford is bananas and apples. Yes they are good for me but week after week of the same to starts to get a little on the boring side.
Missy Report
I have been looking for fruits & vegetable's on sale in the fall months. I have saved alot of money and I'm eating healthier than before too. I have been eating alot more fruit since last year at this time. Report
I think this is kind of cool! I know from what I'm going thru right now that it's hard to stick to a budget, but this tool could probably help out those trying to fight the recession. Report
I think it can be a great tool to help people understand that healthy food can be affordable, especially when combined with other foods (whether from a can or a box). In today's society, just getting people to eat more vegetables is a great plus, and helping people stretch the budget and eat healthier is a great step in today's economy. It might also be a great first step in getting people away from relying on processed foods just because they're "affordable" even though, once the dependence on processed foods is broken, healthy eating is VERY affordable, if you are able to put in the time at least once or twice a week to cook ahead. Report
I was excited about this new rating system until I seen that Campbells soup was listed than I smelled a "rat". Report
I think the point behind this new index is to convince people that buying nutritious food is more economical than buying cheap food. I've heard many poorer people say that they can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables, and a person who works full-time or has multiple jobs may buy cheap canned soups because they don't have time to make homemade soup. They may also feel like buying all those "expensive" fresh fruits and vegetables to make their own soup costs too much compared to a $1.00 or $2.00 can of soup. I think this could be a good educational tool to help people manage their grocery budget to fit in nutritious food, or at least to consider nutrition more in their grocery decisions rather than just the cost. (Ramen, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs can look pretty cheap in the store but are obviously not very nutritious.) Report
I, like WENDYRS and a few others, was disappointed not to find the list of ' over 300 foods' mentioned in the study. Not to mention the fact that Campbell Soup was a major sponsor of the 'study'. Report
Canned foods have always tasted strange to me, like the metal they sit in and the idea of food sitting around inside a can does not appeal to me. Report
Sometimes I don't feel that there is a lot of diversity represented on Sparkpeople. There are several people in our society whose only choice of vegetables is either eating canned vegetables or eating none at all. Perhaps this tool is more "in touch" with and representative of the the general population in the real world than many of the comments that I read on Sparkpeople Report
I think this is a great first step. However, has anyone asked Campbell if their cans are lined with PBA. As far as I know, only Eden has informed consumers on their cans that they do not use PBA to line their cans. This means that everyone else is guilty of lining their cans with PBA, the same plastic that was banned in baby bottles. Even if it is a small amount, if you are eating from these cans daily, it is all cummulative, since we do not know what else also contains PBA that is considered small enough to not be harmful. Until Campbell tells me they have discontinued using PBA, I am not eating canned soups from anyone else but Eden. Report
Eating out of a can CAN be a part of a healthy diet! That's not to say I do it often, but sheesh, everything in moderation. Report
thanks for the summation...
Saved to my 'favorites' & shared on Twitter!

I think this tool could be helpful with money being tight and hard choices to be made! Report
Campbell's soups says it all. How can eating out of a can be healthy? Report
I'm trying to be as health conscious as possible on a budget. Report
I am very health conscious when it comes to cooking for my family and what they put into their bodies... It would be interesting to see the list... and I agree... is canned soup a healthy choice!!!! price wise I believe homemade is better you have control over everything put in.. plus you can freeze extra for a quick meal through the week when busy... Report
I'm with u, Goalie! Sometimes I see things or "studies" as they refer to them. Obvious information, obvious outcome & I say "DUH - how much of the taxpayers $ did they use to fund that study?" Report
I don't think it really takes much of a study to show that veggies and fruits are good for a person, and that they are more affordable that prepared items from the shelf. Sometimes when I read a study I just say duh......how much did that study cost????? Report
I do not find this study helpful because it was funded by Campbell's, which means it is skewed. It is a shame that they included canned soups on the list. I hate to sound so cynical, but I do not trust the research because of the backer. Report
I am afraid of the list when the start listing Campbells because I remember Campbells as high sodium. I have to go through things well to see if I agree with them. Report
I think this study is highly suspect although it has good ideas. There are many areas where certain foods are expensive, especially in the winter and these include berries. I'm thinking that people should just get back to basics and if they don't know it, go to the library - they do have cookbooks and books on budget cooking, too! Report
Like others here, I am suspicious of a list that includes canned soup as a good nutrition buy. I have managed to reduce our average grocery bills by $70 per month in 2009 (compared to 2008) by preparing almost everything from scratch, buying produce in season, enlarging our home garden, and preserving fresh produce we get from our garden, U-Pick farms or the farmers market. Report
I love oranges but they are very expensive where I live in northern Michigan so they are a treat, not a regular item in my shopping cart. Report
Very cool article. Report
I think teaching old-fashioned home economics and cookery classes in school wold be more beneficial. a) children need to know how to cook, how to shop, how to store food, how to use left-overs, how to make food last - as most modern parents don't know these things! And b) "pester power" can change how parents do things quicker than anything else. We might as well use this to good ends rather than screams for mars bars or other rubbish food.

sounds great...and like everyone else is asking, where is the list Report
Yes, Campbells provided funding for that study. I also found out that about a year and a half ago the same researcher came out with a public statement that healthy eating is more expensive than unhealthy eating (of course this was not a study of how much you save on medical bills by staying healthier). Report
It all sounds good to me, except - now there's the big scare regarding all the pesticides being used on veggies and fruits shipped to our stores. It would be nice if there were some kind of monitor or gauge for those levels, too. I can't afford organic 'everything', and I can only grow so much in my back yard. Report
hmmm....the fact that so many Campbell Soup's made the list makes me suspcious....who funded this "evaluation" again? I hope it is not just another company ploy to boost company sales!

The other issue I am concerned about is how much prices flucuate...if we as consumers know this info....it means companies know it too and will possibly figure "hey...let's raise th e prices on these low cost nutritious foods so we make more money"....so I wonder how often they will re-evaulate this info and update it and adjust it for different regions. Report
It may be beneficial, but I would not be able to get past the taste . . . I dis-like pickles very much!! Report
I like the concept but I would like to see what nutrients were considered and what each was given in developing the index. Were negatives like high sodium or high fat factored in. Report
Affordable nutrition...now that is new. It's always bothered me that over the past 25 + years the food that is higher in fat, sugars & sodiums (pre-pkg'd) which are unhealthy for us seem to be more affordable. We live on a tight food budget so whenever possible I buy things in season & freeze/can it. Also, soups I make from scratch (not all the additives) and can freeze the extra too.
I'm all for a system that's realistic & easy to deal with, so hopefully this ANI will work. Report
great idea! I've been doing the same thing lately, not looking at the price but the price per nutrient. the AARP put a chart in their last magazine about the price per gram of protein of several foods, and it really helped me look at some options that I wasn't aware of. Report
I have enough trouble reading the labels that are on there already! No more labels for me unless they are going to be simplified! Maybe I just need a personal chef to at least do much shopping. ;) Report
Raspberries and blackberries have never been affordable in the places where I've lived...so we need to 'watch' this list...and canned soups? Please.. they have chemicals in them.
Make your own soup.. Report
Consumers Report magazine is my buying bible so to speak, if they tested it, approved and rated it, I would buy it,, I have never gone wrong doing that in 35 years!! Report
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