A patented algorithm based on a food’s nutrient density per 100 calories determines the Guiding Stars 0, 1, 2, 3 rating. Meaning, foods are individually rated against a strict standard, not each other.
The Guiding Stars program is grounded in evidence-based nutrition science — our Scientific Advisory Panel consults the current dietary guidelines and recommendations of leading national and international health organizations, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization.
Using the Nutrition Facts panel (or the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for fresh meat, seafood and produce) the algorithm determines the amount of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and whole grains versus saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sodium and added sugars. The more nutritional value a food has, the more Guiding Stars it receives. If a food receives no stars, then it didn’t meet the rigorous nutrition criteria to earn a star. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it, but rather there are more nutritious options to choose from.
Our Scientific Advisors — leading experts in the fields of nutrition and public health — regularly review the algorithm to make sure it’s up-to-date with dietary and nutrient guidelines.
Public Health Nutrition
The impact of a supermarket nutrition rating system on purchases of nutritious and less nutritious foods
A 2014 independent study conducted by researchers from Cornell University examined how the Guiding Stars nutrition rating system impacted consumer food purchases. According to the study, “the introduction of the nutrition ratings led shoppers to buy a more nutritious mix of products.”
The Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel provided comments to Public Health Nutrition in response to specific study conclusions.
International Food and Agribusiness Management Review
Simulating the Potential Effects of a Shelf-Tag Nutrition Information Program on Diet Quality Associated with Ready-to-Eat Cereals
According to new independent data published recently in the International Food and Agribusiness Management (IFAMA) Review, the nationwide implementation of the Guiding Stars Program on ready-to-eat breakfast cereals alone could prompt consumers to reduce the amount of added sugars and increase the amount of whole grains in their diets by 2.5 percent, while also reducing calories and sodium intake.
Effects of the Guiding Stars Program on purchases of ready-to-eat cereals with different nutritional attributes
A 2013 study published in the journal Food Policy confirms that Guiding Stars influences grocery shoppers’ selections, significantly increasing demand for products that are rated more nutritious, at the expense of those that are not. According to the study, shoppers were significantly more likely to choose ready-to-eat cereals with one, two or three Guiding Stars, indicating a higher nutritional value, versus those with zero stars, or a lower nutritional value.
American Journal of Health Promotion
In July 2011, the Guiding Stars program received a patent for the algorithm used to rate foods. In the same year, the algorithm was made transparent by publication in a peer-reviewed article.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Guiding Stars: The effect of a nutrition navigation program on consumer purchases at the supermarket
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows Guiding Stars had a positive influence on food purchasing decisions after the implementation of the zero-to-three star rating system and that these changes continue to be significant in achieving healthier food choices in the supermarket.
- NEXT STEPS: Where to find Guiding Stars
- PHOTO GALLERY: Sample Food Ratings
- FEATURE: Guiding Stars make nutritious food shopping elementary
- NUTRITION SCIENCE: Understanding the Science