I received the following email from a frustrated user of the Nutrition GPA app. I’m posting it here, along with my response, in case other app users might find it useful as well.
“I have been somewhat frustrated with the scores I’ve been getting on the Nutrition GPA app. I know I definitely do not eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables some days. But I think my diet is very good otherwise–just not in ways the app measures!
“For instance, I don’t eat any meat, I eat no dairy on an average day, I rarely eat eggs, I obsess over sodium, I rarely eat baked goods–and when I do, they’re homemade, low sugar, low sodium, dairy-free, etc., and the only white flour I eat is in baguettes, Portuguese rolls, or occasional pasta. Nevertheless, I’m getting Cs and even a D!”
How does the Nutrition GPA assess your diet?
The questions in the Nutrition GPA quiz represent the foods most strongly associated with overall diet quality, risk factors, and health outcomes. If your grade is not as high as you think it should be, perhaps aspects of your diet that you think are “not so bad” or “occasional” are having more of an impact than you realize.
Conversely, aspects of your diet that you think of as “very good” may not have as much impact (or be as consistent) as you think.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the details you mentioned:
- If you don’t eat any meat, then you are always getting points on Q9. So that’s certainly not responsible for your low grade!
- Avoiding diary and eggs is not associated with improved diet quality or reduced health risks. So they don’t impact your grade one way or the other.
- If you have high blood pressure and are sensitive to the effects of sodium, then that might be an important thing for you to watch. But for the majority of the population, avoiding sodium does not improve their health or their risks. So it’s not monitored in the Nutrition GPA.
- Baked goods that contain white flour will impact your grade–even when they are homemade, low sugar, low sodium, and dairy-free! If you’re only eating them occasionally, it shouldn’t affect your GPA too much. But research shows that replacing white flour with whole grain flour (or avoiding it altogether) improves health and nutrition. And that’s why you get a higher grade on days when you don’t eat things made with white flour.
There are also a few things that you DIDN’T mention. But if you are frequently having more than one alcoholic drink, more than 25 grams of added sugar, eating fried foods and/or you rarely eat fish, legumes, and nuts, this will drag down your Nutrition GPA.
All of which is to say that the whole point of the Nutrition GPA is to shine a light on those areas of our diet that could stand improving. And sometimes it reveals things that we may have over or under-estimated. In which case, it’s working exactly as designed–and presents a great opportunity to improve your nutrition!