Creation and validation of a NOVA scored picture set to evaluate ultra-processed foods

Appetite. 2024 Jul 1:198:107358. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2024.107358. Epub 2024 Apr 15.


There has been a rapid shift in the modern food environment towards increased processing in foods consumed in the United States (US) and globally. The NOVA system (not an acronym) for classifying food on degree of processing currently has the most empirical support. Consumption of foods in the NOVA 4 category, ultra-processed foods (UPF), is a risk factor for a host of poor health outcomes including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Despite these poor health outcomes, UPF make up 58% of calories consumed in the US. Methodologies for assessing the reinforcing and rewarding properties of these foods are necessary tools. The Becker-DeGroot-Marschak auction paradigm (BDM) is a well validated tool for measuring value and is amenable to neuromonitoring environments. To allow for the testing of hypotheses based on level of food processing, we present a picture set of 14 UPF and 14 minimally-processed foods (MPF) matched on visual properties, food characteristics (fat, carbohydrate, cost, etc.), and rated perceptual properties. Further, we report our scoring of these foods using the NOVA classification system and provide additional data from credentialed nutrition professionals and on inter-rater reliability using NOVA, a critique of the system. Finally, we provide all pictures, data, and code used to create this picture set as a tool for researchers.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Fast Foods*
  • Food Handling* / methods
  • Food, Processed
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States