Diet quality of items advertised in supermarket sales circulars compared to diets of the US population, as assessed by the Healthy Eating Index-2010

Lisa Jahns, Angela Sheett, LuAnn K Johnson, Susan Krebs-Smith, Collin R Payne, Leah Whigham, BS Hoverson, Sibylle Kranz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
453 Downloads (Pure)



Supermarkets use sales circulars to highlight specific foods, usually at reduced prices. Resulting purchases help form the set of available foods within households from which individuals and families make choices about what to eat.


The purposes of this study were to determine how closely foods featured in weekly supermarket sales circulars conform to dietary guidance and how diet quality compares with that of the US population's intakes.


Food and beverage items (n=9,149) in 52 weekly sales circulars from a small Midwestern grocery chain in 2009 were coded to obtain food group and nutrient and energy content. Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) total and component scores were calculated using algorithms developed by the National Cancer Institute. HEI-2010 scores for the US population aged 2+ years were estimated using data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. HEI-2010 scores of circulars and population intakes were compared using Student’s t tests.


Mean total (42.8 of 100) HEI-2010 scores of circulars were lower than that of the US population (55.4; P<0.001). Among individual components, Total Protein Foods was the only one for which 100% of the maximum score was met by both circulars and the population. The scores were also similar between the circulars and population for Whole Grains (22%; P=0.81) and Seafood and Plant Proteins (70% to 74%; P=0.33). Circular scores were lower than those of the population for Total and Whole Fruits, Total Vegetables and Greens and Beans, Dairy, Sodium, and Empty Calories (P<0.001); they were higher only for Fatty Acids (P=0.006) and Refined Grains (P<0.001).


HEI-2010 total scores for these sales circulars were even lower than US population scores, which have been shown repeatedly to reflect low diet quality. Supermarkets could support improvements in consumer diets by weekly featuring foods that are more in concordance with food and nutrient recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number1
Early online date23 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • Diet Quality
  • Healthy Eating Index
  • Supermarkets
  • Weekly Sales circulars
  • Food Environment
  • Grocery


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