Balanced for Life Offers Three Nutrition Standards

Sept. 21, 2007
Operators everywhere work to comply with nutrition requirements.

The NAMA Balanced for Life campaign is taking a new step to help everyone adapt to the changing landscape operators everywhere are facing as they work to comply with nutrition requirements.

To help operators implement new vending programs, Balanced for Life is creating three voluntary nutrition standards to give operators and accounts a choice of programs to help them decide which approach works best
for them.

Across the country, school and work accounts are looking to our industry to partner with them on health and wellness issues. This voluntary program component can help operators demonstrate that they have the tools to help and truly be part of the solution. In addition, because each nutritional program is a stand-alone resource, each operator can easily implement the program he or she thinks is best suited to a particular environment.

Three distinct programs

The new nutritional “Basket of BFL Tools” includes three distinct programs for operators:

  • 35-10-35 Standard. This is the most widespread nutritional guideline, and calls for products that are less than 35 percent fat, less than 10 percent saturated fat, and less than 35 percent total weight in sugar.
  • The Alliance for a Healthier Generation Standard. This begins with the 35-10-35 guidelines mentioned above, but also requires a cap of 230 milligrams of sodium and two levels of calorie caps: one at 180 and the second at 200.
  • The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Standard. This reflects the nutritional guidelines called for in the recent report released by the organization, “Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth.”

Institute of Medicine: two tiers

The IOM Standard calls for a two-tiered system: Tier one products are more restrictive and calls for these foods to meet the 35-10-35 guidelines, except that there may be no more than 35 percent or less of calories from sugar. (The sugar requirement is somewhat different than other standards which mandate less than 35 percent total weight in sugar.)

In addition, the tier one products must be fruits, vegetables, whole grains or nonfat or low-fat dairy, trans-fat free, limited to 200 calories, and have less than 200 milligrams of sodium per portion as packaged.

For IOM tier two, foods are also limited to the 35-10-35 nutrition standards, contain no more than 200 calories and 200 milligrams of sodium per portion as packaged, and be trans-fat free. In addition, drinks could only have five or fewer calories per portion and no caffeine, cannot be vitamin- or mineral-fortified, but may be carbonated and may contain flavoring or a sugar substitute.

Some operators might think the 35-10-35 guideline best meets their needs, but others might need a stronger nutritional component. For example, while the IOM standards are somewhat restrictive, they are already being adopted in communities across the country.

In addition, many believe legislation being considered in the House and the Senate that would regulate the nutritional components of food sold in schools could eventually include these IOM guidelines. As a result, the BFL campaign has created a variety of options for members who need to comply with differing local guidelines.

Each system can stand on its own

Each BFL nutritional component will be a stand-alone system that provides all the materials necessary to implement that particular standard. Included will be “Fit Pick” stickers that operators can place in front of qualifying products, point-of-sale materials, and a list of products that meet the nutritional guidelines.

The campaign is also creating both a school and B&I brochure that explains the program for operators to share with accounts; together, they can choose the program that works best.

For more information about the campaign or to order materials, visit

Jim Brinton, NCE, is president of Evergreen Vending in Seattle, Wash. and chairman of the NAMA Balanced for Life Committee.