Health Star Ratings: making shopping easier and healthier

23 November 2015 | Clare Hughes
health-star- rating

With Australians facing rising rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases like heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some cancers, it’s never been more important for Australian shoppers to have food labels that help them to quickly and easily identify healthier choices.

Marketing claims on the front of packages usually don’t tell the full story. Nutrition information panels in fine print on the back or side of the pack can be complex and time-consuming to use to compare all the products on your weekly grocery list.

You may have noticed the Health Star Rating appearing on the front of some packaged foods.

What does the Health Star Rating mean?

The stars are voluntary, meaning it’s unlikely all companies will adopt it, particularly if they’re selling unhealthy products. But it’s good to know that the more stars – the healthier the product.

Fresh fruit and veg would automatically get five stars from us – but as they aren’t packaged, you won’t see any stars on them.

Let’s take muesli bars as an example. It is easy to think that a muesli bar is a fairly healthy lunch box snack- but not all muesli bars are created equal. Many are packed full of sugar, and little nutrients – so look out for four or more stars to know you’re choosing a healthier option.

The same goes for breakfast cereals. Plenty of cereals are little more than puffed sugar, meaning you and your kids are consuming empty nutrients but missing out of fibre. Choosing a five-star cereal means you know it’s low in sugar and fat, and higher in fibre than a product with less stars.

The Health Star Rating system is designed to make shopping for healthy foods that little bit easier. For time-poor parents looking to giving their family the best nutrition, it is a simple way to make sure you’re buying the best foods possible.

Why has the Health Star Rating been introduced?

63 percent of adult Australians and ¼ of children are now classed as overweight or obese. The Health Star Rating is designed to help us make healthier choices for our whole families – with a quick glance at the packet.

 Cancer Council NSW helped to develop the Health Star Rating scheme. I was a public health representative on the Technical Design Working Group advising the Commonwealth Government during the development of the new scheme.

Remember, nothing beats fresh – but if you need to buy a packaged snack – look for the one with as many stars as possible!