ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The Robins Air Force Base Commissary is giving nutritious foods in its store a green thumbs up label to help customers more easily spot healthy choices with the help of the Robins Health Promotions dietician.
The Dietitian-Approved Thumb is a nutrition identification system that is part of a Defense Commissary Agency initiative recently implemented throughout the Department of Defense’s 79 commissaries.
Jacqueline Henderson-Pitts, Robins Commissary grocery manager, said DAT is the commissary’s way of helping the military community improve its nutrition fitness.
“The DAT labels on our shelves are based on science and align with expert recommendations of the dietary guidelines for Americans and DOD health and wellness experts,” she said. “The expectation is to build a healthy eating pattern by limiting calories from unhealthy fat and added sugars, limiting sodium, and identifying items that offer the highest nutrition density with considerations to lean protein, healthy fat and whole grains.”
The thumbs-up labels are located on the shelves directly underneath the products’ prices.
Kendra Hill, Robins Health Promotions dietitian, worked with the commissary’s staff to label the appropriate foods throughout the store.
“The concept is like having a dietitian alongside of you during grocery shopping,” she said. “The DAT tags assist shoppers to find products based on their nutritional attributes. The green ‘thumbs up’ shelf tags highlight foods that are high performance, nutrient dense foods while taking the guesswork out of choosing nutritious items.”
Hill said the label system will guide people toward the right foods to eat.
“This will assist individuals with building a healthy overall eating pattern based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” she said. “You no longer have to look at the nutrition facts label because the work has already been done for you.”
The DAT-labeled foods are filled with lean/plant-based protein, healthy fats, whole grains and/or essential vitamins and minerals, Hill said.
“In general, you want to fill your cart with fresh produce, lean meats and eggs, and packaged items with the green thumbs up label, while limiting sweet treats and highly processed foods,” she said.
More than 3,000 food items have been labeled with the thumbs-up tag in the Robins Commissary.
This program has been highly anticipated by DOD health and wellness stakeholders, Hill said.
“Shoppers will find the DAT program is a benefit they will not find in commercial grocery stores,” she said. “It will be incredibly helpful to identify which food items will provide a diet with the beneficial nutrients your body needs without consuming too many empty calories.”
The original Nutrition Guide Program debuted in January 2012 to help customer’s spot products featuring one or more of five popular nutritional attributes – low sodium, whole grain, no-added sugar, low fat and high fiber.
Hill said about 630 products were identified and tagged based on these key Food and Drug Administration nutrient attributes.
“This program provided information that would help customers make better nutritional choices, but only covered a few attributes for a limited number of products,” she said. “The new program is much more robust, covering most of the food items sold in the stores according to DeCA Health & Wellness Program Manager Deborah Harris, who uses a unique software conceived by DeCAs health and wellness team exclusively for commissary customers.”
Hill said the DeCA software has the ability to analyze and identify products in most of the commissary food categories based on 86 of the FDA-defined health attributes, not just the six in the previous program.
Henderson-Pitts said department managers throughout the commissary are available to answer shoppers’ questions about the label system.
For more information on the Defense Commissary Agency’s DAT program, visit https://www.commissaries.com/healthy-living/dietitian-approved-thumb or visit https://commissaryconnection.dodlive.mil/2021/01/14/start-the-new-year-right-with-a-focus-on-nutrition/.