During his remarks at the news conference, Nassau County Executive...

During his remarks at the news conference, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, right, made a joke about the choice of breakfast cereal in his house. Brian Cullen, president and chief operating officer of King Kullen, left, and Tony Femminella, vice president of store operations, brought Mangano to the cereal aisle to compare NuVal scores. (Feb. 23, 2011) Credit: David L. Pokress

Orange juice was once just orange juice to Christine Llinas, and she bought whatever happened to be on sale. But a new nutrition scoring system introduced this week at King Kullen has her rethinking that strategy.

"Now I see if a juice has a higher number; I would pick the one with the higher number even if it's not on sale," Llinas, of Levittown, said as she shopped in her local store.

King Kullen shoppers will see banners, aisle signs and shelf tags revealing the nutritional rating of food on a scale of 1 to 100 - the higher the score, the better its nutritional value.

The system, called NuVal, rates everything from spinach to Cap'n Crunch. So far, the system has pleasantly surprised Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, settling a long-standing argument in his household, he said.

"Cocoa Puffs is more nutritious than Rice Krispies," Mangano proclaimed, with a smile, Wednesday at a news conference at a King Kullen in Commack.

The Bethpage-based grocer is the first supermarket in the metropolitan area to partner with the Braintree, Mass.-based NuVal, the company said.

The NuVal system is used at about 900 grocers nationwide. King Kullen co-president Brian C. Cullen described the partnership as "the most ambitious step we've taken in 80 years to promote nutritious eating."

In the past decade, consumers have been demanding more healthy foods and more information about their foods, industry experts said. Manufacturers and supermarkets have responded with programs, including symbols to identify heart-healthy products, labels with nutritional content and other nutritional scoring systems. The focus on nutrition has intensified with first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity.

NuVal founder David Katz described the system as a kind of GPS for the food supply, helping shoppers navigate the flood of information and sometimes misleading labels.

"You have to interpret facts, for facts to become knowledge you can use," he said.

Katz, who is also director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, developed the NuVal system with a team of nutrition and medical experts in response to rising rates of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Those experts created a formula that measures more than 30 nutrients - including vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, sugar, salt, trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol - and their health effects, the company said.

George Payne, a single father from Levittown shopping at the Commack store with his three daughters, said he likes what he sees. "I don't have the time to sit here and think all of this stuff through," said Payne, who added he does his best to avoid products high in sugar.

But he did give in to one daughter's request for Fruity Pebbles. It's NuVal score: 20.

Nutrition scores: Who's the winner?

Cocoa Puffs 25

Rice Krispies 23

Salmon 82

Skinless chicken breast 39

Filet mignon 30

Mott's applesauce 4

Food Club (King Kullen's store brand) applesauce 9

Source: NuVal nutritional scoring system

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