Top 10 things to know about the Nutri-score, what is behind these A, B, C,…

You have probably noticed, for several years, the presence of a small logo on the food products that you buy in the supermarket. A logo with letters that go from A to E, from green to red, and which looks like a rating system. Well that’s the Nutri-score. And even if we quickly understand where the trick is coming from, we don’t know concretely what it corresponds to. That’s why we’ve prepared a little top story for you to see how the Nutri-score works, if it’s reliable, and if you really have to follow it to the letter to avoid gaining 12 kilos a year. The Nutri-score will soon have no more secrets for you, lucky little band.

1. What is the Nutri-score?

The Nutri-score is a five-level rating system, from A to E, intended to give an indication of the nutritional value of food products. Basically, if the label says “A”, it means the product has good nutritional value, and if it is marked with an “E”, it means that swallowing a bite of this product is equivalent to a one way ticket to the morgue. No, still not, but that means that the product is not very good for your health, because it is too caloric, too fat, too sweet or too salty.

In short, the Nutri-score allows you to compare foods of the same type at a glance (like a brand 1 ham with a brand 2 ham) and it’s very practical.

2. How is the Nutri-score of a product calculated?

Concretely, we take 100 grams or 100 mL of the tested product, we calculate its content of nutrients to promote (fiber, protein, etc.) and its content of nutrients to limit (caloric intake, sugar, salt and fat). Then we take an average of all that, which gives a more or less favorable score. There is a real calculation behind each letter. It’s not done with a wet finger.

3. Is it mandatory to display the Nutri-score on the products?

Well no ! All of this is done on a voluntary basis, and you can imagine what that implies: brands that only sell products that are bad for health do not lend themselves too much to the game, just to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. When you sell crap food or drink, you don’t want to put a label on it to tell everyone it’s crap. It’s logic.

4. Should you always buy Nutri-score A products?

No, calm down a bit. If the best rated products are to be favored, it is also not an invitation to fall into orthorexia and to want to eat only perfectly healthy products. The body also needs certain nutrients that seem a little less “healthy”, such as fats, which are essential to its functioning. When you buy butter, you know it’s fatty, and it’s not because we don’t care about a Nutri-score E on its packaging that you’re going to stop buying it, right? Well, there’s nothing to become Nutri-score maniacs. It would be a blow to have deficiencies and end up in worse health than you were before.

5. But products marked with an A are still good, right?

Well, not necessarily. The system is far from perfect in truth. A Category A product may still contain unhealthy ingredients that are simply outweighed by good nutritional value. And then it doesn’t tell us either if the product is ultra-processed or if it was designed in good conditions, etc. In short, the Nutri-score should not be taken as the ultimate guide to shopping. It’s just ONE means of comparison as there are others, sometimes more reliable.

6. How long has it existed?

The project dates from 2014, but it was only adopted in 2016 in France. Afterwards, it took a few more years for the brands to agree to play the game. As we said, some still refuse to display their Nutri-score, but, overall, the thing took rather well .

7. Other countries have the same system?

Exactly – thanks for asking: Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain have also adopted Nutri-score and are trying to popularize it across Europe. However, some countries, such as Italy, Greece or Romania, oppose it and prefer to adapt another type of score (though much less practical for comparing products). A priori, it should not cause a new World War either, but it’s a shame.

8. What is a cool alternative to Nutri-score?

There are other types of scores which are complementary to the Nutri-score. Because we said it, the Nutri-score ONLY shows the nutritional value of foods. To complete, we have this:

– The NOVA Score, which rates foods from 1 to 4 according to their processing. If the food is ultra-processed, its score will be closer to 4, and if, on the contrary, it is quite natural, its score will be closer to 1.

– The Eco-Score, which grades the impact of food products on the environment from A to E. Convenient to know if what you eat is green or not.

– Then, we also have the Yuka application which gives a score out of 100 according to the nutritional quality and the presence of additives. It is more elaborate and more complete than the Nutri-Score, but inevitably a little less practical since it is necessary to scan each product with the telephone.

Afterwards, you can also go to the Openfoodfacts site which gathers a lot of information, including the Nutri-Score, the NOVA Score, and the Eco-Score. It does not look like much, but it is independent and quite complete.

Top 10 things to know about the Nutri score what is

9. What’s the risk with all these scores?

Even if it starts with a good intention, the first risk of all these rating systems is to fall into orthorexia (an obsession with having a healthy diet) which ruins the lives of a lot of people and can lead to other eating disorders. The second risk is to spend 50 years shopping, wanting to compare everything all the time, and no longer taking any pleasure in eating. It’s stupid to come to this anyway since the initial objective was to have a better life.

10. So, how do you avoid overbidding?

For that, there are two solutions (well, there are surely more, but we offer you two quite simple ones):

– Take the scores just for what they are: ways to compare from time to time, for example when hesitating between the cereal box of brand A and the cereal box of brand B. If we can choosing the best rated one might as well do it, but it shouldn’t become an obsession either.

– Cook your own meals, preferably with organic products. It avoids asking a lot of questions, and it also avoids eating overly processed products that are generally bad for your health. So yes, organic is a little more expensive, but preparing your own meals is much cheaper, so that makes up for it.

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