WHAT THE HEALTH STAR RATING REALLY MEANS FOR GROCERY SHOPPERS

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You might have seen some star symbols on the front of food packaging recently (Aussies – this blog post is for you!). You may even have heard a bit about the a government ‘Health Star Rating‘ (HSR) in the news. While packaged food has a nutrition panel to explain the nitty-gritty, they’re not easy to navigate for most, and reading every one on your supermarket shop can be pretty time-consuming.

The HSR, shown clearly on the front of packs, aims to provide an easy way to compare similar packaged food to make better health choices. We’re all trying to make better choices for our health, and this seems like a tool to help simplify the process for us – exciting right?! But what does the HSR actually mean, and how is it calculated?

WHAT IS A HEALTH STAR RATING?

  • The Health Star Rating is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food
  • Food is rated with anything from ½ a star to 5 stars.
  • It provides a quick, easy, standard way to compare similar packaged foods. The more stars, the healthier the choice.
  • The number of stars is based on energy, nutrients such as saturated fat, sugars, sodium and protein, and the fruit and vegetable content.

HOW IT WORKS

The system uses an algorithm to determine a star rating for products based on their nutrition.

The rating takes into account:

Positive factors: Such as the proportion of fruit, vegetable, nut and legume wholefood content. Nutrients such as fibre or protein.

Negative factors: Such as high amounts of saturated fat, sugars, sodium (salt) and energy (kilojoules). These are linked to an increased risk of obesity and diet related chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, if consumed in excess of dietary guidelines.

HOW I USE IT

It’s important to note here that the HSR should be used to compare like with like products in their category – for example dairy products, or cereals. They do not provide an overall ranking of ‘healthfulness’ for your entire supermarket shop. For example, a 5 star cheese may not be ‘healthier’ than a 3 star cereal. That’s not how this works, people.

When I pick up a cheese in the supermarket that may be say, 2 stars, I would look for a different cheese with a higher star rating for a healthier alternative. Now that is helpful right? No more reading hundreds of nutrition panels to find the better cheese for your Sunday lunch platter!!

Try this: quickly compare your favourite cereals, muesli, and breakfast biscuits in your next shop.

I save heaps of time in the health food aisle looking at different organic popcorns, for example. It’s so hand to see something on the front of the packet for quick reference.

It’s also great for comparing similar canned foods, which is where I seem to spend the most time reading labels. It’s amazing how much salt can be sneakily added to everyday canned foods – such as tinned tomatoes. Make sure you check the health star rating on these to save time.

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