Follow the stars to healthy eating

By: Jennifer Pretty Oct 18, 2011
guiding stars

Have you ever been in this situation? You’re standing in the grocery aisle comparing a few product options. You read the nutritional labels and compare calories, fat, sugar, sodium, fibre content.  Many of the products are labeled with vague terms like  “low fat”, “light”, “health checked”, “low cholesterol”, “fat free”, “no sugar added”, “high fibre”, … etc. You end up frustrated because you’re unable to tell “good” from “bad” to “really bad”.

Sometimes trying to eat healthy can be difficult, especially if you aren’t completely clear on what you are looking for. Is this something you experience on your trips to the grocery store? If so, you may be in luck.

The “Guiding Stars” program which has become popular in the United States may be coming to a Loblaw grocery store in the near future.

Basically, this is a rating system on how healthy a food product is based on a nutritional criteria. The program uses a computer algorithm that takes into account food label information and ingredients, then rates the products on the star system from 0 to 3 based on its nutritional value, the more stars the better it is for you. The system gives higher ratings for products with more vitamins, minerals, fibre, whole grains, Omega-3s while having lower saturated fat, trans fat, sodium or added sugars.

The food products are independently audited from the grocer and the food manufacturers themselves have no control on whether they are rated, or what score their product ends up receiving.

The algorithm that the Loblaws program will be using has been modified to account for the differences between the U.S and Canadian food guides.

Some experts say that while this is a great start for many Canadians to quickly and simply identify some of the healthier choices in a grocery store, we still need to educate ourselves in order to clearly understand our food choices.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, obesity expert and director of the Ottawa-based Bariatric Medical Institute says “consumers shouldn’t rule out reading labels completely. Whether or not the particular foods with stars they’re purchasing will meet their needs is certainly not a guarantee”.

Let’s be honest, a lot of bad food choices are based on lack of nutrition education. On a rush trip to the grocery store it will save a lot of time and frustration to be able to look at products and know right away, the more stars, the better it probably is for me in comparison to other products.

The “Guiding Stars” system is another helpful and simple program that will hopefully help Canadians make better choices.

This being said, I do agree with Dr. Freedhoff’s point that we are all different, with different nutritional requirements. It’s important to be informed on your own specific needs and then use the star system as a secondary tool.  

For more information on this program, go to  


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!