Learn About Our New Beverage Guidance

“Since sugar-sweetened beverages are the greatest contributor of added sugars in the American diet, we aimed to evolve our guidance to identify beverages that provide hydration, without increasing the risk of chronic disease,”

Leslie Fischer, PhD, MPH, RD, a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel.

Enhanced Guidance for Beverages

  • Beverages are evaluated based on a 12oz serving size.
  • Star-earning beverages provide hydration, promote good health, and prevent chronic disease.
  • Examples of Star-earning beverages include water, seltzer, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee, coconut water, kombucha, and 100% juice.

More Star-earning beverages choices

Guiding Stars is backed by science and built for speed, so you can quickly make the best beverage choices as you shop!

Beverages that earn the best possible rating of 3 Guiding Stars, contain no sweeteners, no additives to limit, and no added sodium.

Calorie-free beverages, like water and seltzer, can now earn Guiding Stars.

What does the Beverage Algorithm examine?

Beverages Algorithm

Added Sugars
Natural Sugars
Saturated Fat
Added Sodium
Additives to Limit

Questions on the Beverages Algorithm

What criteria are considered for assigning Stars to individual beverages?

We use a unique set of relevant criteria to evaluate and assign Star ratings to a wide variety of beverages. All beverages are first standardized to a 12-ounce serving size and are credited for providing hydration, based on water as a gold standard. Beverage products then receive additional credits if they contain vitamins/minerals, fiber, and/or live active cultures. Beverages receive debits if they are high in added or natural sugars, added sodium, saturated fat, or additives to limit (artificial colors and flavors, non-nutritive sweeteners, and chemical preservatives). After calculating the initial product score, items that receive no debits whatsoever, contain no additives to limit, no added sodium, and no sweeteners of any kind earn an additional bonus credit.

Are the Guiding Stars criteria the same for all foods and beverages in the store?

The Guiding Stars criteria are not the same for all foods and beverages in the store due to inherent differences in various categories. For example, to evaluate and differentiate fats and oils, nutritional components including omega-3 fatty acid content, monounsaturated fat content, and saturated fat content must be considered. It would not make sense however to look at these components in beverages as most drinks are fat free and do not even contain these nutrients.

The Guiding Stars program now has 5 unique algorithms to evaluate 5 different groups of foods and beverages. We designed a new, unique algorithm to assess and assign Star ratings to all beverages, since the algorithms previously developed for foods were not effectively differentiating the hydration and health properties of beverages. (The food algorithms are based on a 100-kcal serving size, so water—with no calories—could not be evaluated using any of those algorithms.)

If a beverage does not have a Star, is it a bad beverage?

The Guiding Stars program was designed to direct consumers to good, better, and best choices for nutritional value, not to mark items as bad. If a beverage does not have a Star, it simply means that the product does not meet the science-based criteria to earn Guiding Stars. Beverages without Stars are not bad, however products in the store that earn Stars do better provide hydration and other health promoting qualities.

Historically, products with 5 calories or fewer per serving were not eligible for Stars.