A Closer Look at One-Star Foods

If you use Guiding Stars to help you select healthful food items for yourself or your family, you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of choosing more of the two- and three-star items. (Maybe you even make a game of it—seeing how close you can get to having all the items in your cart be either two- or three-star items!)  It’s true, the double and triple-starred items have more of the healthy attributes most of us are looking for (fiber, vitamins and minerals) and less of the things that health authorities recommend we limit (added sugars or trans fats, for example). Making it a habit to aim your food choices at two- and three-star items is a smart shopping strategy for a healthful diet.

Old Fashioned Fruit Crumble
This Old Fashioned Fruit Crumble earns 1 Guiding Star.

So where does that leave the one-star foods? Do you need to skip those altogether in the name of health? The short answer is no—you don’t need to skip them. Most of us have room in our diets for one-star favorites like certain cereals, breads and dried fruit items. After all, just because they only get one star doesn’t mean they have no redeeming nutritional qualities.

Nobody eats perfectly.

Making smart choices while shopping is often a learning process—you learn which foods are better choices by shopping with Guiding Stars, reading food labels, trying new foods to see which you like (and don’t) and, over time, learning which ones work best for you or your family. Sometimes you’re not looking for the most nutritious item—sometimes you’re having a super busy day and the easiest home-cooked meal you can rustle together will be a frozen meal kit that earns one star. No problem! I’d never tell someone that they need to choose every food they eat based on its nutritional content.

As much as we might try our best to eat a healthful diet, nobody achieves the perfect diet all the time. Are you paying attention to what you purchase and cook and eat? Are you trying to make smart choices most of the time? Then you’re doing just fine. There is more to life than obsessing about the healthfulness of every morsel you put in your mouth day in and day out. Cut yourself some slack and have that one-star cereal once in a while.

Swap shop.

Those one-star favorites (I’m talking about you, granola bars, trail mix and fish-shaped crackers) may not score top stars, but consider this: if you swap a one-star food in place of something that earns no stars, you’ve made a nutritional improvement. So, by choosing a one-star granola bar instead of a no-star candy bar, you’ve satisfied your craving and bumped up the nutrition factor of your snack at the same time. That granola bar contains some whole grains for fiber and likely has less sugar and fat than the candy bar—which is why the granola bar gets one star and the candy bar gets no stars.

Could you have done even better nutritionally? Yes, of course, you could have had some fruit salad to satisfy your sweet craving (not sure that would have worked for you, but maybe). Anyway, perfection isn’t the goal progress is. By substituting a one-star item for something comparable that earns no stars, you’ve scored a nutritional victory that you can feel good about. Keep adding small victories like that and you find yourself eating more healthfully than ever before.

There’s a reason they’re called “sometimes foods.”

Being able to enjoy all kinds of foods is part of the joy of eating, and Guiding Stars is certainly not here to take away any of that joy. Having one-star foods (or no-star foods) sometimes is totally okay! But, keep in mind that “sometimes foods” should only make up a small part of your food intake. A good exercise to help you tune in on how many “sometimes foods” you’re actually consuming is to keep written track of what you eat on a weekday and on a weekend day (or whatever day of the week counts as your weekend/day of work day).

Use an app, use a paper and pencil, whatever works best for you, but if you track everything you eat or drink just for a couple days and then sit down and look at it you may be surprised to see that treats are finding their way into your diet more than just “sometimes.” If that’s the case, make a plan to adjust so that the bulk of your intake is coming from more healthful foods. Here is some more insight on “sometimes foods” and five questions to ask yourself about the role that these foods play in your diet.

Plan ahead.

Using the Food Finder tool on the Guiding Stars website (get to it right on the home page) allows you to check how many stars a food item has—before you get to the store. It’s handy when you want to compare brands of cereals, granola bars and much, much more! There are also loads of recipes (with star ratings!) for you to try. I encourage you to make use of all the resources available on the Guiding Stars website—it’s here for you!