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Meet Max Calorie

Remember Max Headroom? If you're a child of the 80's like me, you certainly know the stuttering media character voiced by Matt Frewer. Or, maybe you were a fan of New Coke (Go ahead. After all these years, it's OK to admit it). Max was the spokes-entity who continued hawking the reformulated beverage after a public outcry compelled the company to re-introduce Classic Coke. "C-C-C-Catch the wave!"

2426453609.jpegIndeed. Forgive the stroll down memory lane. It's just that I was reminded of good old Max when Ahold-owned Peapod announced this week that it was introducing the "first ever virtual nutritionist," capable of sifting through all the products sold by the online grocer and highlighting the ones that meet a customer's dietary needs.

Subscribers can use one of five pre-set diet plans offered (gluten-free, peanut-free, high-fiber, low-fat and low-sodium) or they can create their own customized plan using a blank Nutrition Facts panel. Here they enter the maximum desired for calories, fat, carbohydrates, fat, etc. and then activate the filter prior to building their shopping list. Peapod will only display available products meeting that criteria.

The "NutriFilter" service also takes away the challenge of trying to determine how much to eat of any nutrient. The press release uses fiber as an example. Users click on the "fiber" icon while compiling their shopping list, and enter the amount of fiber they want products to contain, and the program will highlight the approved products.

The idea has merit because we all know just how difficult it's become to decipher the various Nutrition Facts panels, on-pack claims and health logos clogging packages. Services like this allow users to shop without being experts; as long as they have some idea of their dietary needs, then they're good candidates to take advantage of Peapod's NutriFilter.

Nutrifilter is certainly not the wisecracking, surreal Max. But the ability of an artificial intelligence to help us navigate today's world — whether politics or nutrition — is something I think he would have found worthy of comment.