Dinner with the “Stars”

You toss your backpack on the shelf, swipe your ID at the entrance, and grab a plate. Knocking into other students as you weave your way through the dinner rush, you send out a mass-text message to see where your friends are sitting. You pile a couple of slices of pizza on your plate because they’re a quick choice and you’re trying to get to that 6:40 review session for your nail-biting exam tomorrow.

You’re a college student trying to stay nourished in a fast-paced, multitasking society, and you don’t have time to plan the perfect meal.

At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), this is where Guiding Stars comes to the rescue, giving “fast” food a new meaning…

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10 Surprisingly Unfamiliar Nutrition Facts Label Facts

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The ubiquitous nutrition facts label. Mandated by the FDA and required on most pre-packaged food sold for public consumption, the nutrition facts label is meant to serve as a guide to a specific product’s ingredients based on an average 2,000 calorie a day diet.

Although the FDA sets specific and explicit guidelines (down to the typeface and font size to be used), there remains room for ambiguity.

Moreover, did you know that restaurant and packaged foods can actually have more calories than what is indicated on the nutrition label? Studies have found that the worst offenders are side dishes — sometimes exceeding the restaurant’s reported calorie content by as much as 200 percent. In fact, a recent study published in the Review of Agricultural Economics, found that fast food meals are actually smaller and have fewer calories than the food served at restaurants.

All of that aside here are 10 little known facts about the nutrition facts label:

  1. Foods with less than five calories meet the definition of “calorie free”
  2. If fat is present at a level below 0.5 g, the level of fat is expressed as 0 g
  3. The term serving or serving size means an amount of food customarily consumed per eating occasion by persons 4 years of age or older
  4. The serving size for maraschino cherries is one cherry
  5. Manufacturers determine the accuracy of the nutrient contents of their own product(s). See: Restaurant and Packaged Foods Can Have More Calories Than Nutrition Labeling Indicates
  6. The FDA does not check for the accuracy of product labeling (but will occasionally collect “surveillance” samples to monitor the accuracy of nutrition information)
  7. The FDA does not maintain a database of nutrition information, but instead reviews and accepts industry databases
  8. For products usually divided for consumption (e.g., cake, pie or pizza), the serving size shall be the fractional slice of the ready-to-eat product (e.g., 1/12 cake (tiny piece), 1/8 pie (tiny slice), 1/4 pizza – usually two slices)
  9. Sulfites are considered incidental ingredients and need not be listed among the label’s ingredients
  10. Allergens other than the eight major food allergens are not subject to FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act) labeling requirements. FALCPA’s labeling requirements do not apply to a sandwich that was prepared by say, a deli or a restaurant. Incidentally, the eight major food allergens as defined by the FALCPA are: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans.

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Announcement from Guiding Stars: It’s Finally Here!

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It’s official! The new Guiding Stars website has launched and we’re excited by the great response it has received so far. The new website has a streamlined look, full social media integration including Facebook Connect, and features a blog offering the latest health and nutrition news, with contributors ranging from mothers to nutritionists. We welcome more feedback and encourage you to share your suggestions and submit blog posts.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the launch – all of our readers, subscribers, commenters, remixers, and of course to our amazing bloggers: Sarah Wallace, Jen McNally, Nicki Hicks, Lori Kaley, John Eldredge, Stefan Pinto, Heather Parker DeSimone, Heather Wasklewicz, Melanie Hansen, Erin Dow, Angie Muhs, Amanda O’Brien, Steve Clifton, and Jon Plodzik. Here’s to more interesting content and genuine discussions in Guiding Stars 2010.

Great work from the Guiding Stars team, Guiding Stars Street Team, and Shines and Jecker.

Latest Press Release

Guiding Stars® Celebrates the Relaunch of a Healthier, More User-Friendly Website
We’re building our online community by launching a healthier, more user-friendly website, with a community of dedicated bloggers, new social media tools and a healthy recipe contest.

Contest

WIN a week’s worth of FREE groceries!

Share your creative recipe idea for healthy eating before, during and after the “big game” in February. If your recipe gets 3 Guiding Stars you are automatically entered to WIN…

New Blog Post

Resolutions for 2010 by Lori Kaley (GS Scientific Advisor)
Well, it’s already January and I haven’t come up with my New Year’s resolutions for 2010. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I have plenty that I can work on…

Thank you for helping us make the Web a more nutritious place one kilobyte at a time…

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The University of New Hampshire Goes Guiding Stars

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The University of New Hampshire was introduced to the concept of utilizing the popular Guiding Stars program into our campus’ dining program almost 1 year ago. From the moment we began to discuss the program, I felt it was a good fit for what we were trying to accomplish – communicating quick and easy nutritional information in our dining halls.

Prior to Guiding Stars, we presented nutritional information on cards that were placed next to each menu item. While that offering was informative, this easy to understand symbol system, with Gus as its mascot, seemed a natural addition to our program and provided an informational platform for our guests to make food choices.

I am very pleased with the results and the immediate impact the Guiding Stars program has had on our operations. It sets us apart from other Universities and helps put UNH Dining Services in the category of truly innovative organizations.

After the rating of some 1,200 recipes, we introduced the Guiding Stars program to our guests. We viewed the launch as an educational opportunity for not only our students, but for us as well. We quickly learned that some of the menu items we previously thought were “healthy” didn’t pass the Guiding Stars parameters and some items we didn’t think would pass – did.

The Guiding Stars ratings have challenged us to rethink ingredients and incorporate more vegetables and fiber – and less salt and sugar. Feedback has been positive; students, faculty and staff want to see more items on the menu with more Guiding Stars. Recently, we held a Healthy UNH luncheon where almost everything on the menu earned at least one Guiding Star. The feedback on the menu was outstanding and Guiding Stars had a lot to do with the meal’s success.

Throughout the implementation process, right through today, Misty and her colleagues at the Guiding Stars Licensing Company have been great to work with. The team has worked to bridge gaps between our production software company, our IT staff and our evolving needs/ideas. They have been available, supportive and a true partner in the creation of the program at UNH.

The team has worked to bridge gaps between our production software company, our IT staff and our evolving needs/ideas. They have been available, supportive and a true partner in the creation of the program at UNH.

I am very pleased with the results and the immediate impact the Guiding Stars program has had on our operations. It sets us apart from other Universities and helps put UNH Dining Services in the category of truly innovative organizations…

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