Labeling the way to a healthier lifestyle

The Defense Commissary Agency created the Nutrition Guide Program, a dietician approved labeling system that premiered in commissaries around the world in January 2017. The labels highlight foods that are low fat, low sodium, whole grain, a good source of fiber, organic or that have no sugar added. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel)

The Defense Commissary Agency created the Nutrition Guide Program, a dietician approved labeling system that premiered in commissaries around the world in January 2017. The labels highlight foods that are low fat, low sodium, whole grain, a good source of fiber, organic or that have no sugar added. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Out of a desire to eat healthier, many people wade headlong into the time-consuming process of trying to decipher and compare nutrition labels.

In order to make this process easier, and to help consumers save time in the grocery store, the Defense Commissary Agency has created the Nutrition Guide Program, a dietician approved labeling system that premiered in commissaries around the world in January 2017.

According to the commissary website, the NGP is a consumer-friendly labeling system that uses highly-visible color-coded tags to highlight foods with certain key nutrient attributes.

“The labels are simply easy to spot as you go down the aisle,” said Belinda Aguiar, a RAF Lakenheath Commissary assistant commissary officer, “and the colors are coded to the nutritional attribute, such as light blue is low fat, and dark blue is low sodium.”

In addition to low fat and low sodium, the labels highlight foods that are whole grain, organic, have no sugar added or that are a good source of fiber.

“What it’s supposed to do is try to emphasize healthy choices and make the decision process easier,” said Clayton Cates, 48th Aerospace Medical Squadron Health Promotion dietician and nutritionist. “For example, if you’re looking at breakfast cereal, you have a ton of choices at the commissary. Trying to look for one of these labels--low sodium, no added sugar--helps take your choices from a huge amount of options down to just a handful. So hopefully it will simplify that choice.”

Select foods that meet a ‘high nutritional quality criteria’ also feature a green ‘thumbs up’ symbol on the NGP label, according to the commissary website.

In addition to primarily buying foods labeled with the ‘thumbs up’, the commissary also recommends purchasing fresh produce, lean meats and eggs, and food with heart healthy fats in order to maintain a healthy diet.