Wal-Mart stores are helping customers identify healthy food options with its “Great For You” icon and labeling program. It’s part of the company’s healthier food initiative launched in January 2011.

The green-and-white icon will appear on Wal-Mart’s Great Value and Marketside items, as well as fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables, at stores nationwide this spring. The effort will make it easier for customers to build healthier diets, officials say.

The icon also will be applied to lean meats and low-fat dairy products and will be made available to national brand products that meet the qualifying criteria.

“Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices,” says Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Wal-Mart.

Items carrying the icon must meet rigorous nutrition criteria compiled by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, USDA and Institute of Medicine. The “Great For You” nutrition criteria were developed by consulting with food and nutrition experts from the public and private sectors as well as leading health organizations, say Wal-Mart officials. That information is available for review at walmartgreatforyou.com.