Focusing on nutrition: Commissary labels help patrons achieve wellness goals
It’s only natural to highlight the commissary’s nutrition guide program (NGP) during March, National Nutrition Month, and this year the spotlight is on the center of the store.
“With the focus on eating healthy and nutritious foods, many may feel that items in the center of the store or those that have undergone some processing need to be avoided,” said Deborah Harris, registered dietitian and the Defense Commissary Agency’s health and wellness program manager. “The fact is that there are many items in the center of the store that promote health and fuel the body for optimal performance.”
Calling them economical and having a longer shelf life than fresh produce and lean meats, Harris said food items found in the center of the store should be pantry staples used in conjunction with fresh produce, lean meats and healthy fats to build a healthy eating pattern.
“Our nutrition guide program, which was designed in collaboration with dietitians throughout the Department of Defense, identifies high-performance, nutrient-dense foods with a thumbs-up icon on the NGP shelf sign next to the food item,” Harris said. “Shoppers can combine these items with our fresh produce and lean meats to build a high-nutrient-quality shopping basket, and then enjoy cooking and preparing more meals at home.”
There’s such a wide variety and volume of center-store food items, from boxed cereal to canned beans and everything in between, that the commissary’s nutrition guide program, which was launched by DeCA just a year ago, is viewed as a tool to make shopping easier.
“The military community should have confidence in building their basket with us using the nutrition guide program because it’s scientifically credible,” Harris said.
The program’s color-coded shelf labels point out items with key nutrient attributes. There’s dark blue for low sodium, brown for whole grain, purple for no sugar added, light blue for low fat and golden yellow for good source of fiber. There’s also green for the lifestyle choice of USDA-certified organic. While many items have a combination of qualifying attributes, the ones with the “thumbs up” icon are especially recognized as nutrient-dense, high-performance foods.
“This is all about the customer,” Harris said. “The NGP helps make shopping easier so our patrons can achieve their health and wellness goals.”
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