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Walmart May Change the Way You Eat

New food labels to steer healthier choices.

When earth’s largest retailer makes a change, it affects millions, and Walmart’s latest initiative could deeply discount its shoppers’ personal body fat. (Don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty to go round.)

Next time you run into a 24-hour Supercenter for a late-night fix of chips and four-dollar Rob Schneider DVDs, you should notice some products carrying a bright-green “Great For You” label. It’s all part of Walmart’s recent pledge to start selling healthier food. The retail leviathan has already made some progress, building locations in areas of the country that lack full-service grocery stores and reducing the cost of healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, Walmart is actively trying to guide shoppers toward better food choices.

In large part, the guidelines adhere to the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, but Walmart also consulted with nonprofit organizations and nutrition experts, as well. For now, the labels be apply only to Walmart-brand foods, but other companies can use the label if their foods meet the guidelines, which demand that a food contain at least one of the following:

  • Fruit or vegetable
  • More than 50 percent whole grain
  • Low- or non-fat dairy products
  • A protein that meets the USDA’s definition of “lean”
  • Fats/oils, nuts/seeds and spreads no more than 15% saturated fat calorically

They also limit added sugar to 25 percent of a product’s calories, total fat to 35 percent, trans fat to zero, and sodium to between 380mg and 600mg, depending on the item.

The U.S. dietary guidelines also encourage people to increase their intake of key nutrients—potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D—something the Great For You label doesn’t take into account, which will invariably draw criticism. Some of this is addressed by the emphasis on vegetables and whole grains, but beans and legumes—which provide fiber as well as protein—aren’t mentioned in the list of protein sources.

But while some question whether or not you should trust Walmart’s evaluations, the new guidelines invalidate 80 percent of the mega-retailer’s own house-brand products. It’s like when Congress agrees to lower earmark spending to only eleventy robillion dollars a year; anything is a step in the right direction.

Plus, it’s good business; promoting the longevity of Walmart shoppers makes them shoppers for even longer. Just keep in mind that their labeling guidelines don’t take into account calories so, as always, you’ll still become a fat slob if you overeat even the healthiest food.

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