Healthy Snacks: Using Nutrient Profiling to Evaluate the Nutrient-Density of Common Snacks in the United States

J Food Sci. 2017 Sep;82(9):2213-2220. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13819. Epub 2017 Aug 10.


Objective: To quantify and compare the nutrient-density of commonly consumed snacks using two nutrient-density measures, Nutrient Rich Foods Indices 9.3 (NRF 9.3) and 15.3 (NRF 15.3).

Design: Identify commonly consumed categories of snacks and individual snack foods, calculate NRF 9.3 and 15.3 scores, rank snacks by category and by individual food based on nutrient density, compare and contrast scores generated by the two NRF Indices.

Main outcome measures: NRF 9.3 and 15.3 scores.

Analysis: Averages and standard deviations of nutrient-density scores for each snack category.

Results: Vegetables and coffee/tea received the highest category scores on both indices. Cakes/cookies/pastries and sweets had the lowest category scores. NRF 9.3 scores for individual snacks ranged from -46 (soda) to 524 (coffee). NRF 15.3 scores ranged from -45 (soda) to 736 (coffee).

Conclusions and implications: If added to food labels, NRF scores could help consumers identify more nutritious choices. The differences between NRF 9.3 and 15.3 scores generated for the same foods and the limitations of these indices highlight the need for careful consideration of which nutrient-density measure to include on food labels as well as consumer education.

Keywords: healthy snacks; nutrient density; nutrient profiling; nutrient rich foods index; snacks.

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / analysis
  • Choice Behavior
  • Food Labeling
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Snacks / classification*
  • Snacks / psychology
  • United States
  • Vegetables / chemistry