Program Requirements Appendix E: G4G Coding Algorithm

For Go for Green® (G4G) color and sodium code assignments of foods as either recipes or ready-to-use (RTU) items, trained and certified G4G coders can use the Go for Green® Coding Algorithm in web-based or handwritten format. Coders enter nutrition information obtained from the nutrient-analysis printout (recipes) or the Nutrition Facts Panel (RTU items) and the ingredients list. The coding algorithm is programmed into the web-based Coding Algorithm to quicken the process by automatically assigning points to an item based on the G4G Criteria. If using the handwritten Coding Algorithm, coders add the value for each item by hand and then total the final score. Based on point values, color codes are assigned accordingly: Red (0–4 points), Yellow (5–8 points), and Green (9–13 points). For color code assignments of beverages, refer to the Beverages table.

For sodium code assignment, coders obtain basic nutrition information from either the Nutrition Facts Panel or the nutrient-analysis printout (recipes). When using the web-based Coding Algorithm, coders select the food category (for example, entrées, grains or starches, vegetables, etc.) from the drop-down list and enter the sodium amount in the Sodium Code field. If using the handwritten Coding Algorithm, coders can refer to the Sodium Criteria table for the specific food category. Menu items are then designated as Low-, Moderate-, or High-sodium foods. Beverages are not coded for sodium.

Go for Green® Coding Algorithm

Color Code

Nutrition Component


Possible Points



Is the cooking method of the product deep-frying?

Stop here: Automatically Red


Trans Fat

Does the product contain “partially hydrogenated” fat/oil (trans fat)?

Stop here: Automatically Red



Does the product contain added monosodium glutamate (MSG)?

Stop here: Automatically Red


% of calories from saturated fat

Calculate % of calories from SATURATED fat or use nutrient analysis

≤ 10% sat fat=2

11–15% sat fat=1

≥ 16% sat fat=0


% of calories from total fat

Calculate % of calories from TOTAL fat

* Total fat may be higher than 30% and still score 2 points for select items if the saturated fat is ≤ 10%. Items that may qualify for this exception include salmon and salad dressings or condiments made with heart-healthy fats.

≤ 30% total fat*=2

31–49% total fat=1

≥ 50% total fat=0



Grams of fiber per serving

> 6 grams=3

4–6 grams=2

2–3.9 grams=1

< 2 grams=0



Grams of total sugar per serving

< 12 grams of sugar=3

12–18 grams of sugar=1

> 18 grams of sugar=0





  • Processing that minimally affects nutritional value=canning, dehydrating, freezing, etc. What is added during processing may be unhealthy, but the processes themselves are not harmful
  • Processing that affects nutritional value=processes/ingredients where nutrients have been stripped away and/or artificial flavors and/or colors have been added; curing

How processed are the ingredients in the product?


  • Whole-food ingredients: fresh or frozen vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, unprocessed meat, poultry, and seafood, canned tomatoes and beans, plain dairy products
  • Some processed ingredients: canned plain vegetables, canned fruits in juice or water, dehydrated fruits or vegetables, canned soups, meat or poultry injected with solution, uncured deli meats
  • Moderately to highly processed and/or refined ingredients: refined (white) grains (for example, white bread, rice, and pasta), canned fruits or vegetables with added saturated fat and/or low to moderate amounts of added sugar, nitrates/nitrites, artificial flavors, non-nutritive sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium (“Sunett” or “Sweet One”), Aspartame (“Equal” or “NutraSweet”), Neotame, Saccharin (“Sweet’N Low”), Sucralose (“Splenda”), Truvia, Stevia




Mostly whole-food ingredients=3





Lightly processed, but still of moderate nutritional value=1





Moderately to highly processed and/or refined ingredients=0


Total Points



Scoring (total points)



RedRed=< 5


Sodium Code

Refer to the Sodium table on page 2 of the G4G Guide to identify the appropriate Low-, Moderate-, or High-sodium code.

Category Name: _________________________________

Sodium Code: ___________________________________

Go for Green® Coding Algorithm: Beverage Table

The Go for Green® Coding Algorithm (web-based or handwritten) shouldn’t be used to code beverages. Instead, use the following coding table. Beverages are coded based on added sugar content, artificial ingredients, saturated fat content, and healthful nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Provide G4G educational materials to Service Members to help them make informed choices too.





  • Water (plain or carbonated)
  • Naturally flavored water, including fruit/vegetable/herb-infused (no artificial sweeteners)
  • Herbal tea
  • Unsweetened or very lightly sweetened iced or hot tea (≤ 11 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Unsweetened or very lightly sweetened iced or hot coffee (≤ 11 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • 100% vegetable juice
  • Milk, unsweetened (skim, 1%)
  • Milk alternatives: soy, almond, rice, unsweetened or plain with added calcium and vitamin D


  • Sports drinks
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Lightly sweetened iced or hot tea (12–18 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Coffee with small amounts of sugar, cream, or milk (12–18 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Artificially sweetened beverages (diet or light sodas, tea, juices, and many flavored waters)
  • Milk, unsweetened (2%)
  • Flavored milk (skim, 1%, 2%) (vanilla, chocolate, etc.
  • Flavored milk alternatives: coconut, soy, almond, and rice
  • Hot chocolate made with water or milk (skim, 1%, 2%)


  • Energy drinks
  • Sweet tea (≥ 19 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Coffee with large amounts of whole milk or cream and sugars or syrups (≥ 19 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Sweetened beverages of any kind (sodas, fruit punches, and juice drinks) (≥ 19 grams of sugar per 16 oz)
  • Milk, plain or flavored (whole)
  • Hot chocolate made with whole milk, cream, or half-and-half

NOTE: Use the point-based approach above to code smoothies.

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