Recently I've had an overwhelming number of clients bring up the 5 Star Health Rating as one of the tools they are using in an effort to getting their health on track.
Obesity and health are major problems in the western world, so kudos to the government for attempting to do something about it.
Unfortunately, it's not all it's cracked up to be and may actually be preventing you from achieving your health goals.
Ok, so you're probably wondering if I'm just being an uptight nutritionist who is high on kale, cacao and self importance, or if there's really something to my claims. Let's break it down.
The idea behind the star rating is pretty simple - the fewer stars, the worse it is for you, whereas 5 stars will have you glowing with health and smug satisfaction. Apparently.
Health Star Ratings are based on:
- Total energy (kilojoules) of the product. An average Australian adult should consume around 8,700 kJ a day.
- The saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar content. Consuming too much of these risk nutrients is linked to being overweight and obese, some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- The fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Increasing consumption of these healthy nutrients and ingredients is good for your health.
This was pulled straight from the government site FAQ
For those of you who have been reading my articles for a while now, you'll know how passionate I am about fighting the war against fat and promoting it as a healthy part of our diet. As I've referenced in these articles, good quality fat - including saturated fat - is an important part of our diet and promotes satiety and weight management, improved mental health, better quality sleep, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased cognitive function and much more. Saturated fat is the first thing on their watch list, yet is effective at reducing the risk of a number of risk factors mentioned in their brief.
Salt is also an essential part of our diet, especially for those of us living in tropical and subtropical climates. It's important to ensure that we are getting this from proper food sources such as sea salt and not processed foods or the nasty salt that seems to grace the tables of every food court in the world, but more on that another day.
Sugar. Well, at last I have found something I can agree with! As people are becoming aware, sugar is responsible for weight gain, inflammation, promoting disease, hyperactivity, energy crashes, inability to focus and more. I was excited to see sugar on here and thought this might be a redeeming feature, but it doesn't really seem to add up with the health ratings being doled out.
For example, did you know that Milo has a 4.5 health star rating? While my inner 8 year old jumped for joy at reading that and had flashbacks to hiding in her Nanny's pantry to secretly eat milo straight from the tin, the nutritionist in me couldn't help but die a little inside. At 27.3g of sugar per 100g, this is hardly a low sugar option, while Nutrigrain gets a 4 star rating and has a staggering 32g of sugar per 100g. Up & Go also comes in with a 4.5 star rating and while it is relatively low in sugar (3.3g per 100g), it has a whopping 67g per 100g of carbohydrates. A further issue is that Up & Go has 3.3 serves per unit, though most of us would consume the entire contents in one go.
Just like the Heart Foundation tick of approval that was thankfully discredited, this rating system doesn't accurately demonstrate which foods are healthy, only how they stack up against other foods in their category. "The system allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. And it’s simple to understand and use." It's one saving grace is that it's not a rating that is bought, though it is left up to manufacturers to create their own rating in accordance with some very confusing and flexible guidelines. So while it's great that they're comparing apples with apples, it seems they've forgotten to rate apples at all!
Sadly, unprocessed foods such as fresh meat, fruit and vegetables don't get a star rating at all. Yet isn't this what should comprise the majority of our diet?
So, scrap the star rating, the heart foundation tick and any other gimmick they pitch at us and just get back to basics. Shop the outside of the supermarket, eat predominantly fresh food and stick to items that are low in sugar and don't have more than a handful of ingredients in them. Simples!
Peace, love and wellness,