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.

Guiding Stars is a food rating system that helps you to identify more nutritious choices. The system is meant to direct you towards foods with more vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, whole grains – and less fats, cholesterol, sugar, and added sodium.

Using a scientific algorithm, foods are rated and marked with simple tags reading 0, 1, 2 or 3 stars. The more nutritious the food is, the more stars it receives.

Nutrition knowledge varies among students and the “dirty work” in determining nutritious value can be time consuming, but when UNH dining halls implemented Guiding Stars in September 2009, making healthy choices was no longer a time commitment— it became a breeze.

Guiding Stars is catering to our hectic lifestyles by giving us a way to make smart choices at a glance. And this easy-to-understand rating system is on its way to impacting the health of UNH students as well as grocery consumers.

My name is Sarah Frederickson. I am a junior Nutrition & Wellness major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). I have a strong passion for promoting healthy eating and overall wellness. With some help from the UNH dietitian, I recently finished a project called Creative Eating which is an approach to educating students on making interesting, delicious, and smart choices in the dining halls. Along with a personal blog that I use to support this project, I have a Facebook group where Creative Eating enthusiasts can stay updated with project events, news, and recipe ideas. I am also an active member of Students Promoting Information on Nutrition (SPIN), a UNH student organization meant to spread nutrition knowledge to students through peer education.