Nutrition News: Healthier Food From Walmart

by in Food News, January 21, 2011
Walmart is promising to offer cheaper, healthier foods.

Our readers targeted cost as one of the major obstacles to eating better. Well, a little help may be coming your way. After years of planning and recent discussions with first lady, Michelle Obama, the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart,  is rolling out its 5-year plan to make healthy foods more accessible to consumers. Here’s what the company’s changing, and our take on the new initiative.

The Plan
In addition to dropping prices on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious fare, Walmart plans to slash some of the junk from processed foods in its own “Great Value” line. On the chopping block:  a percentage of the sodium, trans fats, and added sugars found in soups and other canned items, salad dressings, and snack foods. The company aims to reduce sodium by 25 percent and sugars by 10 percent, while artery-clogging trans fat will be completely banished.  It will also ask suppliers to submit a “voluntary score card” to track the initiative’s progress.

In similar fashion to other giant food companies like Kraft and ConAgra, Walmart plans to make reductions gradually in the hopes of not turning off customers. Also on the agenda: special logos to identify healthy options on the shelves much like the NuVal system.

While Walmart isn’t the first grocer to launch such initiatives, it is the largest. And while this huge undertaking is just getting started (and its success yet to be measured) this will hopefully have a trickle-down effect to other food manufacturers.

As a nutrition professional, I’m excited to finally see some changes on the way. While I have no doubt that these big companies are motivated by financial gain more than anything else, hopefully initiatives like this will get more Americans to pay attention to their food choices. I would also like to see companies like Walmart tackle other important nutrition issues leading to America’s obesity epidemic like the over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but I’ll take what’s happening as a good start and be optimistic that things seem to be moving in the right direction.

TELL US: What do you think about Walmart’s moves towards healthier products?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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