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Making Healthy Food Choices Simpler

  • March 6, 2017
  • By 50 Shades
  • 22 Comments
Making Healthy Food Choices Simpler

Have you ever stood in the supermarket aisle squinting at the fine print on packaged foods trying to decipher whether they’re healthy or not? I do this all the time and still can’t quite get it right. It is not just time consuming, totally confusing and frustrating, but it almost takes a degree in nutrition to understand the actual nutritional value of a food product. It’s time for making healthy food choices simpler for the ordinary everyday person.

To add to the confusion a lot of the food products make claims as to how healthy the foods are, with labelling such as: high in fibre, low fat, no added sugar, 100% natural, lite, 98% fat free and the list goes on. However as I discovered not all of these claims are necessarily healthy or good for us. No wonder we are all confused!

Image Source: Shutterstock

The nutrition information panels on food products are there to provide information on the average amount of energy (in kilojoules), protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium (salt) in the food, as well as any other claim that requires nutrition information. It shows this information as the average amount per serve and per 100g (or 100mL if liquid) of the food.

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t actually know what a 100g of food looks like. If you said it was a ½ cup or a cup then I would know exactly what they’re talking about. So this is the first hurdle of calculating the nutritional value of a particular food product, trying to picture the size of the serving.

Image Source: Shutterstock

The second problem is, do I know what the recommended healthy range amounts are for protein, fat, carbohydrates, sugar or sodium? No I don’t unless I have done my research ahead of time and then have to remember what these amounts are – which is a bit of a challenge for my mature aged brain!

However Kilojoules I understand! That is because like a lot of other women I have been preoccupied for my entire lifetime with the amount of energy that goes into my body to try and keep within a healthy weight range. But is low Kilojoule necessarily good for me? You can understand my confusion!

Image Source: Shutterstock

Good news! I have been noticing recently that a lot of packaged foods display a round-shaped, Health Star Rating image on the front of the pack where you can see it clearly and also read it without requiring glasses. The Health Star Rating is an initiative implemented by the government to try to help consumers make healthier choices when buying packaged foods.

Under the system, packaged foods are given a star rating out of 5 stars based on their nutritional profile. The higher star rating, the better.

Image Source: www.healthstarrating.gov.au

This includes:

  • Energy (kilojoules).
  • Risk nutrients – saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugars.
  • Positive nutrients – dietary fibre, protein and the proportion of fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.

In addition to the stars, nutrient content of the food may be shown directly below or to the side of the rating that shows the quantity of nutrients.

Image Source: Kathy Marris

Once I noticed these lovely little stars on some of my favourite food purchases, I started to understand the nutritional value of foods I eat more effectively and as a consequence I have been making some healthier food choices.

Prior to this I was purchasing Muesli or Granola for breakfast with high sugar and fat content. I was also not making healthy food choices when it came to food items like bread, snacks and yoghurts, some of which are particularly high in sugar.

Image Source: Kathy Marris

At present the Health Star Rating system is voluntary and will only appear on packaged food products at the discretion of food manufacturers and retailers (such as supermarkets). But I think this system is so beneficial, it would be wonderful to see it on all packages.

Article Source: All information for the Health Star Rating system was sourced from the Health Star Rating government website.

This post is part of the Lovin’ Life Linky with a Lovin’ Life Team of the “ageing positively” kind who are as keen as I am to promote the Lovin’ Life mindset. The Lovin’ Life Team includes:

Johanna from Lifestyle Fifty
Min from Write of the Middle.
Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit
and of course me, Kathy from 50 Shades of Age


By 50 Shades, March 6, 2017 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

22 Comments
  • Wendy
    March 6, 2017

    Unfortunately tho, the big food companies are still up to their usual marketing tricks, so you can’t rely just on this star system. It definitely helps if you have an understanding of what’s what with ingredients and amounts first, then you can use the star system as a guide 😀

    • Kathy
      March 6, 2017

      Thanks Wendy. From what I can ascertain the Health Star Rating is still voluntary at this stage and all companies who choose to use it have to apply the same algorithm to determine their product’s rating.

  • Kat
    March 9, 2017

    I tend to get confused by all the badges and health ratings. Plus I get all cynical and just presume they’re bought by the companies.

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      Although the Health Star Rating is voluntary at this stage, food companies still have to apply the same algorithm to determine their product’s rating. So at least it is good to know that this is uniform across the board. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Min@WriteoftheMiddle
    March 9, 2017

    This is really informative and helpful Kathy – thank you! I have the same issues as you when it comes to interpreting the nutritional panel on food items. I look for low sugar and low fat but don’t know much else. This new Health Star Rating system is a fabulous idea! I hope more food manufacturers take it on. #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      Yes I agree whole heartedly Min. I think it is a step in a positive direction. There is so much confusion when buying food. It is hard to decipher what’s good for us. :)

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond
    March 9, 2017

    You are so right about needing a degree in Nutrition Kathy! Most of us don’t and I believe any rating is helpful. For years labels have included ‘low in fat’ and people think okay that is great but they don’t see the content of Sugar which really negates any goodness. We need a complete mindshift and a regulated honest labelling system. Thanks for highlighting the issue.

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      I was educated about the low fat/high sugar problem when I saw ‘That Sugar Film’ last year. It certainly opened my eyes to the hidden sugar in our foods. Sometimes when I’m busy it is too time consuming looking at the nutritional panel information and try to calculate what’s a healthy amount of the different ingredients. This new system is much more beneficial and easier to read. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Jo tracey
    March 9, 2017

    A friend of mine was resisting getting seeing glasses & used to have to take a photo of the food labels with his iPhone & then open it wide enough so he could read it. The whole thing was such a palaver. The stars are much easier.

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      Ha ha, yes I agree! Sometimes I have to dig around in my handbag for ages trying to located my glasses to read the labels. It is such a tiresome task trying to decipher what’s healthy. The Health Star Rating system certainly takes away a lot of the work in shopping for healthier options. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Leanne | crestingthehill
    March 9, 2017

    Manufacturers make it so hard to see what’s in the packages you buy. The writing is tiny and is hard to figure out – I love the ideas of the stars – big and bright – and the larger %’s is good to see too. I read a post on Kathleen Ahern’s page the other day on carbs and how much is enough – it made me VERY aware that I probably needed to keep an eye on that area too. I miss my 20 year old metabolism!

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      You are not alone in missing your 20 year old metabolism! It gets harder and harder to keep middle aged spread at bay as we get older. I think the Health Star Rating is a great idea and hopefully more food companies will get onboard and be more upfront with their nutritional ingredients. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Jo
    March 9, 2017

    I think the Health Star Rating system is a great initiative, and I’ll definitely be looking out for it. We are very much concerned these days Chez Castro what we put into our bodies. #teamlovinlife

    • Kathy
      March 9, 2017

      It’s funny how I never even noticed these stars prior to being made aware of them. It certainly makes deciphering nutritional information a lot easier and making us aware of what’s actually in the food we purchase. :)

  • Denyse
    March 9, 2017

    It can be very confusing with food and labels cant it? At least some producers are doing what they can to help with health guidance. Good post! Thank you.

    • Kathy
      March 10, 2017

      Yes it can Denyse. I for one am really happy that the government are getting involved with better food labelling for packaged foods. It certainly cuts through some of the confusion. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject
    March 9, 2017

    Yes, the whole food rating thing can be quite confusing. I usually try to minimise sugar and fat, and stick to natural foods as much as possible. #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy
      March 10, 2017

      I think that is very wise Lyndall, as long as you still include some healthy fats in your diet. I think I tend to spend more time in the fresh food section of the supermarket as opposed to the middle aisles. :)

  • Cat @ life through the haze
    March 11, 2017

    Thanks for these tips. We have to be conscious of everything we eat because my son is a coeliac. But sometimes I still forget to check and sometimes it seems so much more complicated that I think it should be.

    • Kathy
      March 11, 2017

      Yes I can imagine how having a coeliac son would make you very aware of what’s in our processed foods. It is a bit of a jungle when trying to ascertain the nutritional value of food with so much conflicting advice from experts. I’m glad that there is finally some uniformity with labelling. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    March 12, 2017

    I love that there is a health star rating, Makes life so much easier. I’m always squinting at the flavour enhancers. I have sensitivities to MSG and other such enhancers so when you see me squinting at a pack, its the 600s I’m looking at.
    #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy
      March 12, 2017

      Yes I’m very sensitive to MSG too so I really should be reading the labels more thoroughly. I really think the Health Star Rating is a good positive initiative by the government. People have been confused about food labelling for too long. :)

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