Contact: Emily Jane Watt;

A new food rating system could make it easier to find budget-friendly, nutritious foods in today’s tough economy. The Affordable Nutrition Index (ANI), unveiled recently at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, assesses food’s nutritional profile and cost value to create a nutrition-value-per-dollar score.

The ANI is guided by recommendations in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and calculates a food score based on nine essential nutrients to encourage: protein, fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E, as well as three nutrients to limit: saturated fat, added sugars and sodium.

Nearly 300 commonly eaten foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits and grains, were analyzed from an independent food intake frequency questionnaire, and various convenience foods, including a variety of soups, were assessed in the study. Results showed that dark colored vegetables, certain fruits and vegetable soups were among the most affordable, nutritious foods.

Among the specific findings:

  • Carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli were at the top of the ANI scale.
  • Oranges and bananas were the top-scoring fruits in the index.
  • Other fresh or cooked vegetables (peas, string beans, squash, lettuce) and fresh fruits (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, apples) were also highly ranked.
  • “The obesity epidemic in this country has the potential to get even worse if people are unable to find nutritious choices they can afford and that also fit with their lifestyle,” said Adam Drewnowski, PhD, professor at the University of Washington, who unveiled the index. “I’m hoping the Dietary Guidelines set to be released in 2010 will include the importance of affordable nutrition.”

    “Ease, familiarity and enjoyment are critical to developing lifelong habits,” continues Drewnowski. “If nutrition and health professionals can get people to include affordable, nutritious and convenient foods as part of a balanced diet, we have moved them a step in the right direction.”