Scoring Food Products


GoodGuide's Health ratings for food products are based on four attributes:

  • The nutritional value of the food, as characterized by a standard method of nutrient assessment called the “Ratio of Recommended to Restricted Nutrients” (RRR);
  • Indicators of whether levels of specific nutrients exceed public health guidelines;
  • The presence of potentially hazardous food additives; and
  • Indicators of various production practices that affect the quality of a food product.

Scoring Methodology

The Ratio of Recommended to Restricted Nutrients (RRR) calculates the ratio of “good” to “bad” nutrients, essentially providing an overall picture of a food's nutrition profile. For most types of food, the list of recommended nutrients includes protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber and the list of restricted nutrients includes calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. For fresh fruits and vegetables, the recommended nutrients include fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron and the restricted nutrients include calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

GoodGuide calculates the RRR value for each food based on the data published on a
product's nutrition fact panel. The RRR results are then translated onto
GoodGuide's standard scoring range of 0 - 10 according to the following rules:

  • Ratings between 0–2 are reserved for products that contain no recommended nutrients. Products with no recommended nutrients are given a default rating of 2, which is then adjusted downward based on the relative amount of restricted nutrients they contain.
  • Ratings between 2–6 are reserved for products with more restricted nutrients than recommended nutrients (i.e., a calculated RRR < 1).
  • Ratings between 6–10 are reserved for products with more recommended nutrients than restricted nutrients (i.e., a calculated RRR > 1).

This scoring approach allows users to distinguish between products that have essentially no nutritional value (scoring below 2), products that contain more bad than good ingredients (scoring below 6), and products that are on average nutritionally good (scoring above 6).

See the Notes section below for explanations of how food categories are rated when the RRR methodology cannot be applied (e.g., infant formula and baby foods).

Public Health Guidelines

Each food is then analyzed to determine whether certain nutrients of public health significance (sugar, sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat) are present in levels that exceed recommended thresholds.

We conduct additional assessments on cold cereals in order to determine the quality of carbohydrates (specifically fiber and sugar). We also evaluate energy drinks in order to determine whether they contain excessive caffeine. GoodGuide uses thresholds from a variety of authoritative sources, including the Institute of Medicine (the scientific body that provides evidence for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and the World Health Organization. These standards apply to a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Potentially Hazardous Food Additives

GoodGuide lowers the rating of products that include potentially hazardous food additives derived from authoritative third-party sources, including the UK Food Standards Agency and The Center for Food Safety.

Production Practices

Mounting evidence suggests that the benefits of any particular food go beyond those gained from nutrient content. As a result, GoodGuide's ratings also take into account food production practices, a factor associated with health issues outside the traditional focus of nutritional evaluations. We assign positive ratings adjustments to foods that are certified as organic, genetically modified organisms free (GMO-free), or Bovine Growth Hormone free (rBGH, dairy products only). We assign negative ratings adjustments based on the use of High Fructose Corn syrup, detection of pesticide residues (fresh produce only) and the presence of added sugars or salt (baby and toddler foods only).


Baby and Toddler Food Methodology

We do not apply the RRR methodology to baby and toddler foods. These food categories are rated on an ingredient basis, to better address the special dietary needs of infants and children aged 2-4 years old. GoodGuide evaluates products by their number of ingredients (with more ingredients resulting in lower ratings, varying by feeding stage) and the presence of unnecessary ingredients (including starch fillers, added sweeteners, added salt, and water as the primary ingredient). We also evaluate these foods are against sodium recommendations for infants and toddlers. Finally, baby cereals lacking the recommended amount of iron (45 mg per 100 g cereal serving) receive lower scores.

Infant Formula Methodology

We do not apply the RRR methodology to infant formula. GoodGuide's relies upon the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulations for rating infant formulas. Legally, all infant formulas are required to meet nutrient levels established by the FDA. Our ratings process confirms that product formulas meet these 29 nutrient requirements. Organic products receive increased scores . Every infant formula receives a rating of 9 or below due to the pediatric medical community’s recommendation that breast milk is best source of newborn nutrition.