Nutrition Guide Program

What happened to the Nutrition Guide Program (NGP)?

The NGP evolved into the Dietitian Approved Thumb (DAT) in 2020. Over the lifespan of the NGP we found ways to improve it and in 2019 started to build it entirely internal to DeCA. This allowed us to be more thorough on what qualified for the DAT to include healthy fats. By bringing it in house we were able to more fully analyze our portfolio scientifically and have almost quadrupled the number of thumbs identified. At its relaunch, about 10% of our portfolio qualifies for the thumb.

The Dietitian Approved Thumbs label (DAT) is an evolution of the old NGP that was designed in collaboration with DOD health and wellness leads and dietitians from various Agencies and across all branches. This is an improved program as it now identifies healthy fats while also more accurately addressing the added sugars.

Although the label no longer has the attributes, you can rest assured that anything with the label, now is an optimal, high performance food in that specific category. We maintained limiting empty calories while also looking for the most nutrient dense choice. 

What is the Commissary’s Dietitian Approved Thumb (DAT)?

Choosing nutrient-rich foods from your commissary just got a whole lot easier with the relaunch of the Nutrition Guide Program. 
DAT is a point-of-purchase nutrition identification program that makes it easier for shoppers to find products based on many nutrition attributes. These products are identified by the Dietitian Approved Thumb (DAT). It's a unique resource to us, no other retailer has this type of program. There is only one label: Dietitian Approved Thumb. The point-of-sale (POS) label help patrons identify nutrient dense and high performance food items in order to build a more nutritious basket.

What is the source of the criteria for identifying items with a thumb?

The dietitian approved thumb is based on science and aligns with the expert recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and DOD health and wellness experts. The purpose is to build a healthy eating pattern by limiting calories from unhealthy fat and added sugar and limiting sodium and identifying items that offer the highest nutrition density with considerations to lean protein, healthy fat, and whole grains.

The DAT is based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture criteria and standards for the Regular Amount Commonly Consumed (RACC). All DAT shelf labels for manufactured products are based on the food manufacturer's product labeling to include the Nutrition Facts Panel and ingredients list. The items also align closely with the green category (high nutrition quality/high performance foods) of the Department of Defense's Go for Green program.

Why did the commissary implement a DAT? 

Shoppers have always valued their time. This service comes at a time when eating healthier has become a major consumer focus in line with the growing awareness of health and well-being in our nation. Shoppers are looking for healthier choices and the DAT helps ease their search. The DAT is a state-of-the-art resource to help our patrons make the right choices to maintain a balanced diet. With the NGP relaunch, those decisions have never been easier. It’s simple for the patron to understand. An item either has a Dietitian Approved Thumb or it doesn’t. 

Still baring the tagline “We Did The Work For You” from the former program, the new DAT gives patrons a much more robust program, both in quality and quantity. This new and improved program not only helps those looking to improve their diet for health reasons but assists the warfighter in getting nutritionally dense, high performing foods into their diet. 

The commissary's programs are specifically developed for Service Members to align with DoD's Go for Green® and USMC's Fuel to Fight nutrition-education programs, which are currently deployed in dining facilities worldwide. Items that align closely with the "Green" category (high nutritional quality/high performance foods) in Go for Green® will have a "Thumbs Up" icon displayed. 

The commissary has identified high nutrition quality items as an easy tangible way for our military community to see how to improve the nutrition quality of their eating pattern.

Our patrons have come to recognize, appreciate, and use these identified items to speed up their shopping trips and have confidence in the Thumbs Up as a means of identifying quality products that benefits them and their family’s daily diet.

How does the DAT work? 

The commissary’s DAT uses Thumbs Up shelf tags to highlight products that are nutritionally dense, high performing foods while taking the guesswork out as the DAT guides you in choosing nutritious items to assist with building a healthy overall eating pattern.

The DAT is designed to improve ones' overall health by putting Thumbs Up tags on food items that are dietitian approved making it easier to identify products that supplement wellness needs.

How does one follow a healthy meal pattern? 

The Dietitian Approved seal is our way of helping you quickly identify items to improve the nutrition quality of your diet. Look at it as a "dietitian alongside you" helping you choose items that are align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to promote a healthy eating pattern. You no longer have to look at the Nutrition Facts label and try to decipher as we did the work for you. 

Fill your cart with mostly: 
• Fresh produce 
• Lean meats and eggs 
• Packaged items that have the Green Thumbs-Up 
• Include a few indulgences and treats and use the nutrition attributes to guide you. 

Is DAT meant to replace reading a product's Nutrition Facts panel? 

No. The DAT tags point out high nutrition quality and high performing foods and does not include all the information of the Nutrition Facts panel. Patrons, and especially those with food allergies or specific nutritional needs, still need to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list to more fully determine if a product suits them.

Rather than call out attributes on the shelf tag, we decided to just focus on high-quality nutrition foods. When choosing ‘Thumbs Up’ products customers can be assured they will be getting high-nutrition-quality foods to incorporate into a healthy eating pattern. Now they can build their basket with mostly fresh produce, lean meats and eggs, and ‘Thumbs Up’ items along with a few indulgences and treats for a diet that will provide the beneficial nutrients your body needs without consuming too many calories.

What does the thumbs up symbol mean?

Packaged food items and dairy products that have a thumbs-up symbol have been approved as meeting high nutritional quality criteria agreed upon by Department of Defense (DoD) and military service dietitians. They are nutrient dense and are a great choice in building a healthy eating pattern to promote optimal health and performance. These items align closely with the criteria for Go for Green® and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Go for Green® is a DoD health promotion and nutrition education effort that's used in military dining facilities and galleys to help diners identify food and beverage choices to optimize performance, health and readiness. When shopping your commissary think of the thumps-up symbol as high nutrition, high performance food as, "Dietitian Approved! We did the work for you."

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