Why the health star rating has to go

Have you ever tried using the Health Star Rating System? It’s meant to make your supermarket experience easier, so that you can decide which foods are healthier to feed your family.

The scheme has been around for a bit over three years, and over 7,000 products are now proudly displaying these stars. And while people seem to like the stars and are using them to make healthier choices, questions are being raised about just how accurate the system is.

I personally have no confidence in the Health Star Rating System, and I’m not alone. I believe we’ve ended up with a system that is being manipulated by companies to make their unhealthy food products seem healthier than they actually are. A system that is so broken, I don’t even know where to start.

Why, for example, is regular milk given four stars, while flavoured milks like Up & Go or Milo get four and a half stars? Why is a breakfast cereal that is full of sugar given four and a half stars, while plain Greek yogurt receives just one and a half? And how can anyone be expected to make an informed decision about what to feed their families using this skewed system?

Given the current obesity epidemic we’re currently experiencing, with almost two-thirds of Australians being overweight or obese in 2014-15, you’d think the government would be seriously looking at ways to help. And given that excess weight is a major factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and even some cancers, you’d think they would be trying to find something that is proven to work.

Thankfully, earlier this year, the federal government announced a five year review into the Health Star Rating System. Unfortunately though, we’ll have to wait until 2019 for the findings. While there are good intentions behind the system, it’s going to take a lot of work to overhaul something that is so fundamentally flawed, particularly when members of the food industry sit on the advisory panel.

So what can you do instead? The answer is simple:

  • Eat more real food, as close to nature as possible.

  • Eat less packaged food, particularly those high in sugar, saturated fat and salt.

  • Learn to read nutritional labels - that’s the only place you’ll find the truth about what a product really contains.

That might seem idealistic for some of you, particularly if you’re busy with work and kids, but making lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight. My tip is to pick one or two products a week to look into. Read the back of the label carefully and compare it to the other products available to make the healthiest choice. If you’re not sure about something, ask us on Facebook! We’re always happy to answer your questions about the products we eat and recommend.

Do you want to find out more about how naturopathy can help you?

Click here to download our free guide that answers some of the questions you may have about what a Naturopath can do for you.

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