In an effort to help curb the growing childhood obesity epidemic, Nationwide Children’s Hospital is launching a new online tool aimed at helping parents and kids make healthy snack choices.
Nearly 34 percent of kids 2-19 years of age are overweight or obese, and it is estimated that approximately 30 percent of all calories consumed by kids come from snack foods and beverages. In response, Nationwide Children’s is introducing the Snackwise® Nutrition Rating System online calculator, available free, over the internet, to parents and families looking for a fast, simple way to determine the nutritional value of the snacks they choose.
Developed by doctors and nutritionists at the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, this online tool uses a scientific formula based on the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, considering 11 weighted nutrition parameters, to measure the nutrient richness of snack foods straight out of the kitchen pantry or off of grocery shelves. Then, using an easy-to-understand, color-coded system, the calculator assigns the snack food one of three colors, indicating the nutritional quality of the snack:
Green: Best Choice
Yellow: Choose Occasionally
Red: Choose Rarely
In addition to overall calories, fat and sugar, Snackwise® also ensures “best choice” snack options are rich in desirable nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, all of which are critical in a healthy diet.
“All too often, we see parents and kids make the common mistake of considering only calories, fat and sometimes sugar when making a decision about a snack food,” said Robert Murray, MD, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s, and a professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “What’s unique about the Snackwise® online calculator is that it places a greater value on nutrient-rich foods, ensuring that kids are getting the nutrition they need, instead of filling up on empty calories.”
The Snackwise® online calculator not only eliminates the guesswork when choosing snacks, it’s easy to use. To access the calculator, parents simply log on to www.Snackwise.org. If a snack is already in the system, they can enter the UPC code found on the packaging. However, if the item is a new entry, parents will be prompted to key in some basic information from the nutrition label on the package. Once the correct information is entered into the calculator, the system evaluates the nutritional quality of the snack food and assigns a color.
“Children develop snacking habits early in life, and often, those habits follow them into adulthood,” said Jan Ritter, RD, LD, SNS, a dietitian with the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s. “If we can encourage smart choices now, we’re making an impact that will likely lead to better health for years to come.”
Nationwide Children’s first launched Snackwise® in 2005 in CD format, as a color-coded snack system for schools and vending machines. The program is currently in use by more than 300 schools, vending machine companies and other organizations.
To learn more about how Snackwise® promotes healthier snack choices and for a list of some popular green, yellow and red options, including the current top 10 healthy vending snacks, visit www.Snackwise.org.