By Julia Griggs Havey EDITOR'S NOTE: You've seen Julia on the QVC home shopping network and the Wayne Brady Show, in USA Today, The National Enquirer, Glamour, Bride's and more! She's been called "America's weight-loss Cinderella.

It's that month -- the month when virtually every person starts a diet. It can be very confusing trying to figure out what is good to eat, bad to eat or how much of it to have. certainly makes it simple for us, and it the best place to start when sorting through the sea of confusing messages.

On other place that many people start a weight-loss journey is at the local bookstore. This time of year there are many on the market, and the advice in them varies and can be confusing was well. I recently met a man who makes it all quite easy to understand, Dr. Roy Vartabedian. He was with the Cooper Clinic for many years and came up with a way of counting our food intake in the most logical way that I have ever seen -- it makes it easy to understand the nutritional values of the foods we eat.

In the past it was easy, we counted calories to figure out if a food was "good" or "bad." One number for each food, the lower the better. But what's happened today? We're more sophisticated in our knowledge of nutrition -- we know that calories aren't everything. We know it's what goes with those calories as well, like cholesterol, fats, sodium, fiber, sugar, caffeine, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, proteins, carbohydrates and now phytochemicals. Dr. Roy explained that his patients felt like they needed to be "walking computers" to sort it all out!

He came to believe the average person doesn't want to be a scientist when it comes to figuring out what to eat each day-it just has to be simpler than that. So about 25 years ago, he began working on a system to help the average person figure out what were the best foods to eat. His goal was to boil down all of the factors in foods-positive and negative-into one number that tells you all you need to know about a food. He wanted it to be a positive number, so you try to get more, not less, and avoid the "deprivation mentality."

The system he developed is called "Nutripoints" and it's based on a computerized analysis of every food for 26 positive and negative factors, to give you one number -- the Nutripoint score -- which tells you the overall nutritional value of the food. The higher the number, the better the food.

The Nutripoint system was developed through 10 years of research with people who had serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (high blood fats), and obesity. He realizezed that they needed a simpler way of juggling all of the variables of nutrition when they got back home after visiting the lifestyle change program at the Cooper Clinic Residential Wellness Program in Dallas, where he was director.

What they found is that it's pretty clear which foods are really bad for us and which are really good -- we seem to instinctively know those items. What was it that George Bush Sr. didn't like? Broccoli -- we know that's good for us. What was it he did like? Fried pork rinds -- we know that's bad for us!

But it's the gray area, the foods that have some good characteristics and some bad ones that make up most of our daily eating; these are the ones that give us the most trouble.

Up until recently, there was been no way to simply compare one food to another in terms of it's overall nutritional value. Nutripoints is a revolutionary nutritional system that solves this problem by eliminating counting calories, worrying over fats, sugar and sodium, calculating cholesterol, and figuring out the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances. It does all this and more with a point system, providing one number for each food that can help you maintain a healthy diet.

Unlike calorie, cholesterol or fat-gram counting, which are one dimensional, the Nutripoint system is multidimensional and evaluates 26 nutritional components, scoring each food with a single number that relates to how nutritionally complete the food is. The point score takes into account 18 positive nutrients, or essentials, and weighs them against 8 negative qualities, or excessives.

When he applied the Nutripoint analysis to foods, there were some big surprises! For instance, would you have guessed that one quarter of a cantaloupe melon scores 29 Nutripoints while an apple gets only 4.5? The simple explanation is that an apple is not packed with high nutrition, it's a good food, but the melon has 50 times more vitamin A, 10 times more vitamin C, and more of virtually every other significant nutrient than the apple. Maybe it should be a melon a day.

Let's look at some other Nutripoint comparisons. Two cups of spinach rate 75, but an equal amount of iceberg lettuce scores only 18 points! Two slices of whole-wheat bread outscore white bread by a 6 to 2.5 margin, and cooked broccoli chalks up 38.5 points to 8.5 in a baked potato.

Once you have been introduced to the Nutripoint concept it becomes sort of a numbers game, and the system even includes negative Nutripoint scores for those items that contain more excessive qualities than essentials, such as a McDonalds' Big Mac burger at minus 2.

Most processing significantly alters the Nutripoint values of many foods, so one that most people think is a healthful item may not be so healthy after it has been processed. As the food is processed and adulterated, salt, fat and preservatives are added and the original fiber, vitamin, and mineral content are reduced, thereby reducing the Nutripoints.

In his Nutripoints Program For Optimal Nutrition, I have rated more than 3,600 foods; 1,500 basic foods like apples and oranges, 1,500 brand-name foods such as cereals, yogurts, convenience frozen items and soups and 600 fast foods like that at McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's. Oversimplified, the Nutripoint system works as follows: foods with the highest scores are the most nutritious, and you should eat the highest-rated foods from each of the six food groups to score a total of at least 100 Nutripoints per day.

I think Nutripoints will forever change the way you look at food and nutrition and will help you make healthy substitutions in your daily diet. It's practical, simple and workable. Most people routinely eat only 20 to 30 different foods, and it won't take long to learn which ones are best and change to others that have higher nutritional values.

Dr. Roy quotes Ern Baxter, and I love this quote and may just have to start using it, too: "If your lifestyle does not control your body, eventually your body will control your lifestyle.the choice is yours!"

You can learn more about Dr. Vartabedian in his book at! Understanding what foods are better and why just got a whole lot easier!


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