So, after getting disgusted on my last shopping trip using the NuVal system I came across a web site called Foodfacts.com. If you haven't been there before, go and check it out. You can put in the name of any food and find out what ingredients are in it, and it will explain exactly which chemicals are evil and which are not and why. It will also break down the thumbs up and thumbs down parts of the food. Like, for example, Cheerios rates a 67 on a scale of 100. It's low in calories and fat, etc., but it has a high sodium intake. Then you, as the consumer, can balance out which risks you'd like to take and which you wouldn't. If you have allergies in your family it also lists all of the potential allergens in the food that are additives and the nutritional contents.
It not only does products on the shelves, but also things you might eat out...
3-piece Chicken Selects from McDonald's. The chicken is high in protein but also high in sodium. But it also has processed soybean oil which contains something called TBHQ, which is a petroleum-based product that can cause "nausea, vomiting and delirium."
If you're searching for wide egg noodles, as I am this week, the No Yolks looks like a pretty decent choice. It has a score of 77, no strange ingredients and is high in protein, fiber and enriched with vitamins.
Now to examine a staple. X-man likes chocolate milk. He drinks skim with Hershey's Lite Syrup in it. Turns out Hershey's Lite Syrup ranks a 0. It's high in saturated fats. It contains a bunch of sugar and it has sodium benzoate which is a food preservative and can aggravate asthma, cause headaches and may "increase hyperactivity in affected children." Um, yeah. Gonna need to find a chocolate milk replacement. MacTroll points out that we can make our own with cocoa powder and sugar. Or it looks like the lactose-free 1% already made chocolate milk from Organic Valley is the only chocolate milk that appears to cross into the over 50 mark. Things you know taste awesome, but aren't any good for you suck. Particularly, if you've kind of lived in denial that something like chocolate milk has to be okay because it has a low-fat milk protein base. Alas... not when you add the crap to it that turns it brown.
It also turns out that I'd actually do a lot better for myself for air popping popcorn which is only white corn kernels (rated 77) versus the 100-calorie bags which are entirely made of of controversial ingredients. Orville Reddenbacher's 100-calorie smart-pop (rated a 29) have hydrogenated oils which contain, "trans fatty acids, which are toxic entities that enter cell membranes, block utilization of essential fatty acids and impede cell functionality. TFAs also cause a rise in blood cholesterol." Pop Secret's 100-calorie bags contain something called Propyl Gallate, which is a preservative. Unfortunately, the preservative has been used in studies on rats and mice and current research suggests (but hasn't proven) that this preservative might cause cancer, so it's suggested to avoid it.
So, if the NuVal system does an okay job of telling you which brands are better than others in terms of overall healthiness. This system goes one step further by including a better overall picture of what you're putting in your mouth rather than just giving you a cheat sheet.
One thing I would recommend is NOT liking foodfacts on Facebook. I liked them two days ago, I've gotten five updates from them, all with scary foods (like Hi C orange juice). I had to comment that maybe they could give some GOOD examples. They gave me lemons... literally. :-)