How to use the Health Star Rating to make healthier choices

How to use the Health Star Rating to make healthier choices

Reading food labels can be tricky. To make it easier for consumers The Health Star Rating (HSR) was launched. The HSR is a symbol that food companies can choose to display on the front of their packaging, which gives foods a rating out of five stars. Customers can use this symbol to compare similar food products and help them choose the healthiest option.

How do they calculate each star rating?

Food manufacturers calculate star ratings for their products based on a set of rules. Products can lose or gain points, depending on the nutrients they contain.

Products gain points if they contain fruits, vegetables, legumes or healthy nutrients like fibre. However, they lose points if they contain “risk nutrients”. Risk nutrients are parts of food that contribute to weight gain or can be harmful to our health, such as saturated fat, added salt and sugars. The total points at the end are then converted into a star rating.

How you can use the HSR to help you make healthier choices?

The HSR allows you to compare products within the same category. For example, you could compare two different types of muesli bars, or two different brands of yoghurt, but you can’t compare yoghurt with muesli bars. In this way, if you were looking to buy breakfast cereal and deciding between a cereal with two and a half stars and a cereal with four stars, the product with four stars is probably a healthier option.

It’s important to take this rating with a grain of salt. Remember, even if you choose the healthier option, you should also consider your portion size and what you serve with that product (e.g. type of milk, extra fruit or toppings you put on you cereal).

The verdict

Overall, it’s important to remember that the HSR is only used for processed and packaged foods. This can be a big help for busy people that need a hand deciphering food labels when they are on the go. Before you reach for packaged foods however, aim to fill up on fresh unprocessed wholefoods from the core foods groups. For more information on building a healthy, well-balanced diet based on the core food groups, visit eatforhealth.gov.au. Diabetes NSW & ACT also run Shop Smart programs that can help you become a whiz at label reading, call 1300 342 238 or visit our website to book into one of our programs!

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