I hope you’ve noticed the Guiding Stars product rating tags around your market. Guiding Stars helps take the guesswork out of shopping for more nutritious foods. Like a GPS for the grocery store, the stars can help guide you to the most nutritious choices in each aisle. You will find that the products receiving Stars have more of the nutrients we’re encouraged to eat and less of the stuff we’re supposed to limit or avoid. The more nutritional value the food has, the more Guiding Stars it receives – one star indicates good nutritional value; two stars, better nutritional value; three stars, the best nutritional value.
Sometimes we get questions about the ratings and how they are decided, or why some foods get more (or fewer) stars that one might guess. From time to time I will cover your questions in this column, so feel free to send those questions in! Here’s our first one…
Q: I was surprised to find that grapes and pretzels get the same star rating—what gives?
A: That’s a wonderful question! Grapes and pretzels are rated using the same set of criteria, and can acquire stars for containing more vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, whole grains and omega-3 fats, and less trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium. However, general food groups or food categories, such as cereals or soups, for example, have unique combinations of attributes, and the Guiding Stars program facilitates comparisons within the same general group. For example, starred items can be found in the following departments:
- Cereals: Cereals with less added sugars and more whole grains and dietary fiber get more Stars.
- Meats, Seafood, Poultry and Dairy: You’re likely to see Guiding Stars next to choices with less saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium.
- Soups: Soups with less added sodium and more dietary fiber earn Stars.
- Breads: Guiding Stars highlight choices with less added sugars and sodium, and more whole grains, dietary fiber and vitamins/minerals.
As you go through each aisle of the grocery store, Guiding Stars can help identify healthier options within food categories or groups. It is not designed for comparing foods across categories, such as comparing a serving of steak to a serving of bread.
Guiding Stars translates complex science into a very simple one, two, three star rating program to make decision-making that much easier while you’re shopping. Research has proven that Guiding Stars is effective in prompting more nutritious choices which can make a positive impact on public health—and can make shopping for healthy food all that much easier.