Price, nutrition, time, and other trade-offs: A web-based food value analysis application to compare foods at different levels of preparation and processing
Consumers choose to eat different forms of foods based on a wide variety of factors such as price, taste, nutrition, and convenience and, in doing so, make trade-offs among them. A Web-based application for use by nutrition educators was developed to help individuals compare foods prepared from home recipes with those for other forms of food (eg, frozen, canned, dry mix). Foods with a home-recipe form in US Department of Agriculture databases were selected to represent a range of commonly consumed entrées, baked goods, side dishes, fruits, vegetables, desserts, and beverages. Multiple US Department of Agriculture and commercial databases along with other public data sources were used to construct prices, nutrient values, food groups and components, preparation and cooking times, shelf life, and food safety concerns for foods in the database. Per-serving and per-100-g values were constructed for 100 individual foods with a home recipe and 1 or more other forms. The data are available in a Web-based application, located at http://www.foodvalueanalysis.org, allowing comparisons of individual foods or a daily diet constructed from foods in the database. Nutrition educators can use the application to advise individuals in selecting foods to consume to meet dietary guidelines while taking into consideration cost, preparation time, food preparation skills, and individual preferences. For example, the application can be used to evaluate differences in prices of fresh or processed foods, whether home recipe or processed foods are less costly when taking into consideration the value of preparation time, and the differences in nutrients across different forms of foods.