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  Smart Choice Standards

The Smart Choice criteria are based on several large-scale evidence-based sets of nutrition guidelines, referenced in the table below. Our criteria were also informed by a newly created national icon program called Smart Choices, in which large retail food companies partner with nutrition advisors to identify healthful food choices with a front-of-pack symbol. Smart Choices products will be labeled starting in mid-2009. The detailed criteria for the Smart Choices program are available at http://www.smartchoicesprogram.com/nutrition.html.



Basis of recommendation and source of supporting evidence


700 calories

  • Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. This is an average calorie range for adults.
  • While individual calorie needs vary depending on age, activity level, and weight goals, a 2,000 calorie diet is often used as a reference, such as in determining Daily Values (DV) for Nutrition Facts labels .
  • Assuming a person is eating three meals a day, one meal will provide approximately one-third of the day’s calories.



  • Dietary fat directly impacts blood cholesterol levels, and therefore impacts cardiovascular health.
  • Since heart disease remains the largest cause of death in the United States , we feel that Smart Choice items should be, above all, heart-healthy.
  • While there is no clear consensus regarding the exact amount of recommended dietary fat, some aspects of dietary fats are well-documented; these form the basis of our criteria regarding fats, detailed below.
  • Total fat

27 grams

  • Research has shown that diets providing up to 35% of total calories from fat, as long as most of the fat is unsaturated, can help maintain or improve blood cholesterol levels .  The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends this range of fat as part of its Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.
  • 27 grams of fat provide 35% of calories in a 700 calorie meal. 
  • Saturated fat

6 grams

  • The American Heart Association recommends that 7% or fewer calories come from saturated fat to decrease cardiovascular disease risk.
  • 6 grams saturated fat provides 7% of calories in a 700 calorie meal.
  • Trans fat

0 grams

  •   The dangers of trans fat are well documented. Trans fats decrease “good” HDL cholesterol and increase “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood.
  •   Trans fat must now be listed on Nutrition Facts labels , and several cities (New York, Boston, and California ) have introduced legislation to phase out trans fats in restaurants and schools.
  • The federal Institute of Medicine and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend “that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible.”
  • Cholesterol

100 milligrams

  • A maximum of 300 mg dietary cholesterol per day is widely recommended for heart health. ,
  • 100 mg is one-third of the 300 mg daily total.


770 milligrams

  • Based on abundant research, many large health organizations and health guidelines (American Heart Association, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension / DASH) now recommend a maximum of 2300 mg/day sodium to prevent high blood pressure.
  • People trying to lower blood pressure through dietary changes may need to consume even less sodium, or 1500 mg/day.
  • 770mg is approximately one-third of 2300mg daily total.

Healthful Nutrients and Food Groups

At least 10% Daily Value (a “good source”) of one or more of the following nutrients: Calcium, Potassium, Fiber, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E


One or more servings of the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies the listed nutrients and food groups as lacking in the American diet. These nutrients and foods are included in the national Smart Choices program as “nutrients to encourage.”
  • The Daily Value is calculated by dividing the amount of a nutrient in the food by the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the nutrient and multiplying by 100%.
  • We base serving size on the USDA’s interactive eating guide, www.mypyramid.gov, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommendations for a 2,000 calorie diet. Servings in Smart Choice recipes should be:
    • Fruits: ½ cup equivalent (1/2 cup fruit, ½ cup 100% juice, ¼ cup dried fruit)
    • Vegetables: 1 cup equivalent (1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or juice, or 2 cups leafy raw vegetables)
    • Whole grains: 1 ounce equivalent (1 ounce slice bread, 1 cup ready to eat cereal, or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal)

Food and Nutrition Board. (2005). Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (macronutrients). Retrieved October 8, 2008, from  http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10490

United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (Updated 2004). How to understand and use the nutrition facts label. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html#twoparts

National Center for Health Statistics. (2005). Fast stats A to Z: deaths/mortality. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/deaths.htm.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2005). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005, executive summary. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/executivesummary.htm

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Introduction to the TLC diet. Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/cgi-bin/chd/step2intro.cgi

Lichtenstein, A. H., et al. (2006). Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association nutrition committee American Heart Association. Circulation, 114, 82-96. 

Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling. (July 11, 2003). Federal Register, 68, number 133. Retrieved on October 8, 2008 from http://www.foodsafety.gov/~lrd/fr03711a.html

Office of the Governor, Press Release. (July 25, 2008). Governor Schwarzenegger Promotes Health and Nutrition by Signing Nation-Leading Trans Fat Bill. Retrieved October 28, 2008 from http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/10291

Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. (2002). Letter report on dietary reference intakes for trans fatty acids. PDF file retrieved on October 28, 2008 from http://www.iom.edu/Object.File/Master/13/083/TransFattyAcids.pdf

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