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My Healthy Plate

Smiles

My Healthy Plate with Metro is designed to help customers adopt healthier eating habits by highlighting healthy choices while they are shopping in-store. This program, designed by Metro’s Registered Dietitians, is made up of three components: discovering the freshness and variety of fruits and vegetables, using “smile” icons to easily indicate “Good” and “Great” Choices in the grocery categories, and receiving tips and recipes made with the least processed food available.

The ”smiles” found on the product price tags identify the “Good” and “Great” choices in a product category. These products are selected according to a nutritional criteria established by Metro’s Registered Dietitians, which follows the recommendations of Health Canada and is supported by many health and nutrition specialists.

Smiles can be found in the lower right corner of the price label found on the shelf.

smiles displayed

In each product category, shoppers will be able to quickly spot the nutritionally “Good” and “Great” Choices. This makes grocery shopping easy. Rather than studying a product’s nutritional value chart and its lists of ingredients, shoppers can now use “smiles” to guide them in choosing the healthier items in any given category. The “smiles” also help shoppers improve their eating habits by encouraging them to replace their current choices with healthier options.

All frozen, dairy and refrigerated products, breakfast items and drinks were assessed for the first phase (starting October 2013). This selection was carried out by Metro’s Registered Dietitians according to specific nutritional criteria. These criteria were developed using current Health Canada nutrition and healthy eating recommendations as published in Canada’s Food Guide. Both maximum and minimum quantities for nutrients and specific criteria for ingredients were set for each product category.

In October, we are launching the “Good” and “Great” Choice nutritional rating system for four product groups. This represents 34 categories with 4,951 products, of which 1,631 are identified as “Good” and “Great” Choice items. The second phase of the program will target the remaining grocery aisles. It will start in October 2013 and end in the spring of 2014. It will cover all remaining grocery categories that haven’t yet been assessed.

All you have to do is pick “Good” and “Great” Choice products. The “smiles” identify healthier options in a givencategory. This helps you increase the nutritional value of your shopping cart.

Some programs use an algorithm to assess the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of each food item. My Healthy Plate with Metro is different and unique because its classification system assesses foods according to nutritional criteria set by Metro’s RegisteredDietitians which is specific to each product category. For example, in the first phase, the breakfast, dairy and refrigerated products, frozen products and beverages categories each had a specific criteria to determine “Good” and “Great” Choice items. Given the nature and profile of some products, Metro’s Registered Dietitians did not evaluate certain product categories for “Good” and “Great” Choices. These are the applicable product categories: carbonated beverages, energy drinks, iced teas, syrups (molasses, honey, table syrup, Maple syrup, etc.), refrigerated condiments, and refrigerated dough for baking (turnovers, pie crusts or pastry dough).

No, not necessarily. Certain categories don’t have “Great” Choice options because they don’t meet the standards. Also, some categories didn’t meet Metro’s Registered Dietitians’ criteria and so don’t have “Good” or “Great” Choice smiles.

Nutritional criteria

A list of nutritional criteria per product category was established to identify “Good” Choices on the shelf. A second series of criteria, even stricter than those for the “Good” Choice smiles, was developed to identify the “Great” Choices on the shelf. For the program’s first phase, nearly 5,000 products were analyzed according to these strict criteria. You can read these criteria by product category at the end of this document.

Metro’s Registered Dietitians developed our classification criteria based on current Health Canada nutrition and healthy eating recommendations as published in Canada’s Food Guide. Both maximum and minimum quantities for nutrients and specific criteria for ingredients were set for each food category.

Metro’s Registered Dietitians reviewed the current recommendations for nutrition and healthy eating provided by Health Canada and Canada’s Food Guide when developing specific criteria for the list of ingredients in each product category. Here are the elements they examined to establish Metro’s criteria:

More

  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Fibre
  • Protein
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables

Less

  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Sodium/Salt
  • Sugar

No

  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Shortening
  • Sugar substitutes
  • Artificial trans fats

The classification criteria are available at the end of this document or on the metro.ca website. click here

Fresh and unprocessed products, such as fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, are not included in the program because Metro’s Registered Dietitians consider all of these to be good choices by definition. Rather than selecting “Good” and “Great” Choice items in these categories, Metro will develop tips and advice to encourage shoppers to eat more of these products and use them in cooking more often.

Given the nature and profile of some products, Metro’s Registered Dietitians did not consider certain food categories to be evaluated as a “Good” or “Great” choice. These are the applicable product categories: carbonated beverages, energy drinks, iced teas, syrups (molasses, honey, table syrup, Maple syrup, etc.), refrigerated toppings, and refrigerated dough for baking (turnovers, pie crusts or pastry dough).

No. Specific nutritional criteria were established for each of the 34 product categories below.

  • Fruits and vegetables: vegetable juices; frozen fruits and vegetables; fruit juices
  • Grain products: breakfast cereals; cereal bars; breads and other bakery items; hot cereals; frozen waffles or pancakes; muffins
  • Milk and milk substitutes: Soya and other beverages; yogurts; plain and flavoured milk; cheeses; fresh cheeses; cottage cheeses
  • Meats and meat substitutes: meats, poultry, frozen fish, meats pies and quiches, burgers, sausage; peanut butter, nut or grain butters; eggs; liquid eggs
  • Pre-prepared products: frozen dinners and pasta dishes; frozen pizzas; frozen hors-d’œuvres; frozen side dishes, uncooked frozen pasta; breakfasts; dips
  • Desserts: frozen desserts; frozen treats; fruit bars and roll-ups; instant beverages
  • Oils and other fats: margarines and butters
  • Other: jams and spreads; creams and sour creams, frozen fries

Each item was assessed within its product category.

No. Manufacturers were not involved in developing the criteria. Metro’s Registered Dietitians developed the criteria independently to ensure an objective view on health This explains why it’s possible that some products (including both national and private label brands) generally considered to be healthy were not included in our “Good” and “Great” Choices when evaluated against our nutritional criteria.

The products were assessed by category according to several criteria. A product considered to be healthy may not receive a “smile” if it doesn’t meet one or several of the criteria for its category. For example, a breakfast cereal containing too much sodium would not receive a smile even if it contains enough fibre and does not exceed the maximum quantity of sugar defined by its category’s criteria.

Metro‘s Registered Dietitians and representatives from the My Healthy Plate with Metro program (including Linda Montpetit, dietician from Quebec and Cara Rosenbloom, Registered Dietician from Ontario) all contributed to developing the program. Metro also collaborated with an independent advisory committee established by the McGill Centre for Convergence of Health and Economics.

The smiles identify the “Good” and “Great” Choices within a distinct category of products. In the frozen fries category, for example, the products that meet our specific criteria get a “Good” Choice smile. Although as part of a healthy diet frozen fries should be eaten only occasionally, the “smiles” will help shoppers choose the best product in this category for their special occasions.

The Scientific Advisory Committee

The advisory committee’s main role is to validate proposals and new ideas for the program. The committee also ensures the development, follow-up and application of the program, and evaluates its social impact.

Ms Laurette Dubé, president of the McGill Centre for Convergence of Health and Economics, selected 10 members who are leaders in their respective fields. Committee members are:

Martin Juneau, M.D., MPs. FRCPC Cardiologist, Director of Prevention, Montreal Heart Institute

Thomas R. Shultz, PhD Professor of Psychology and Associate Member, School of Computer Science, McGill University

Chris Lannon, PhD, MBA Managing Director, McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics

Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Founding Director, the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

Francy Pillo-Blocka, RD FDC Clinical Dietician and Educator, AboutKidsHealth, Toronto SickKids Hospital

Louise Thibault, PhD Registered Dietician and Associate Professor, School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University

Mary L’Abbé, PhD Mary R. L’Abbé, PhD is the Earle W. McHenry Professor and Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.