March 25, 2023
Navigating The Health Star Rating System

Navigating The Health Star Rating System

In this episode, I interview accredited practicing dietitian Nicole Senior. We cover how to use the new front of pack, Health Star Rating system and the benefits to consumers. In addition, how our purchasing choices influences supermarkets products.

Jason Jarred joins me for this In The News segment, were we discuss the pros and cons of fitness trackers. You can view the link to the article mentioned in the podcast here.

Hannah Brown Quirky Food Facts segment covers everything you need to know about spinach. Lastly, I give out five weight loss tips that I have previously shared on Periscope this week, see the video below. If you want to find my Periscope handle find me @gmaston. Don’t forget to rate the show on iTunes!

Periscope App

  • Using it for health promotion. Add @Gmaston on periscope- coffee break nutrition at 10am. You can listen to livestream of health tips and advice.

Health Star Rating review

With Nicole Senior

  • System is a front of pack labelling system. Offers a quick and easy method that people can identify healthier food products when shopping.
  • System attempts to turn the complex information in the nutrition information panel and ingredients list into something quick and easy to compare 2 products and identify which has the most health stars and is therefore a healthier product.
  • Designed for processed packaged foods however can also see it on some packaged whole foods such as packaged carrots.
  • How it works: manufacturers voluntarily put health star rating on packages. They use an online calculator, enter all of the food products information and the calculator works out how many stars that product can carry.
  • System is based on risk nutrients; those that we shouldn’t eat too much of e.g. kilojoules, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Also utilises the positive nutritional components that we know are good for us e.g. protein, fibre, fruit/vegetable/legume/nut content. Holistic approach to labelling as it doesn’t just look at risk nutrients.
  • Not perfect; over-simplification of food but it’s the best one we’ve got.
  • Doesn’t address portion size; algorithm based on 100g or 100mL. Doesn’t allow for you eating too much of a highly rated food e.g. can over-consume fruit juice that has 5 stars.
  • Food manufacturers are trying to improve their products health star rating and in doing so they have to use more additives. E.g. take away sugar, need to add more flavours or artificial sweeteners.
  • Breakfast cereals have one of the highest take-ups of the labelling system.
  • Large companies are taking up the rating system; they have the resources to improve their products as opposed to smaller companies who have a lower take up of the rating system.
  • The traffic light labelling system based in the UK (not a government system). It’s too simplistic and criticised for being negative- only looks at adverse nutrients and not the positive nutrients.
  • Food companies want their rating to be better because they’re highly competitive; therefore they work hard to reformulate their products (taking risky nutrients out and trying to put more positive nutrients in). However can get a taste compromise (and people buy food for taste!) when you take out the risky nutrients so it’s a hard task for food technologists!
  • Encourages food manufacturers to make their products healthier.
  • Consumers will buy food that tastes better even if it’s not as healthy so it’s a two-way street; in the end it comes down to taste not nutritive value of food products.
  • Small businesses are the ones who are more likely to jump on the health bandwagon such as Paleo, often without dietitian input, which can have negative consequences. Large businesses are less likely to do this and when they do, they have dietitian input.
  • The enforcement of the food standards code in Australia, including nutrition claims is inadequate. We can pull up people/businesses who aren’t doing the right thing by reporting them.
  • It’s difficult to find honest, trustworthy and valid nutritional information on the Internet and in the media.

Navigating The Health Star Rating System

Are there negatives to fitness trackers?

With Jason Jarred 

  • Article from (‘how we discovered the dark side of wearable fitness trackers). Study on over 200 women who wore Fit bits over 3-6-month period. Most results were positive: helps to achieve target goals, improved pride, self-motivation and self-satisfaction.
  • Some participants found negative effects: guilt over not achieving goals, pressure if didn’t achieve goals, if they weren’t wearing Fit bit their activity was wasted, felt less motivated and felt like the Fit bit was an enemy in their training.
  • Jason uses an iPhone with an app to track workouts. Doesn’t agree that it’s de-motivational.
  • Goals need to be in line with what you can actually achieve. SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (have a deadline).
  • You can still train and gain benefits without wearing a device! It’s about being flexible and knowing any bit of exercise is beneficial.
  • Cheaper Fit bits or equivalent do basics such as acting as a pedometer.
  • Can get stressed and be an unwanted distracted e.g. if you haven’t achieved many steps for the day the device may make you feel anxious.
  • Research shows we only have a limited resource of motivation or ability to make decisions; it gives you another thing to worry about in a way- that’s a piece of your motivation allocated to that one particular thing.
  • People fall into the trap of it’s all or nothing; need to get out of this mindset and be flexible. It’s ok if you don’t meet your target every day- that’s life and things happen!
  • Bioinformatics: the ability to measure the physiology of body using technology. IPhone’s and Fit bits do this. Moving towards having technology embedded in clothing rather than devices.
  • Encourage people to use fitness trackers, especially if they need extra motivation to train. Keep it relevant to your goals!
  • Fit bits and bands better for people who just want to exercise more; recommend them for people at lower level of functioning (not quite into the routine of exercising a lot or strength training).
  • Recommends an app on phones (Fitness Point Pro: customise own exercises and plans. Main goal is to record exercise) to track exercise- gain statistics to show how your exercise changes over time.
  • Jason: transitioning to exercise physiology from personal training at Anytime Fitness Alexandria.

Quirky facts about spinach

With Hannah Brown 

  • Major nutrients in spinach:

-Rich source of beta carotene, vitamin K, folate and potassium.

– vitamin C, riboflavin and vitamin B6.

  • Health benefits of spinach:

-A half cup of cooked spinach provides 60% of a day’s supply of vitamin A and 105 micrograms of folate, more than 50% of the recommended dietary intake. Folate is especially important for women who are pregnant or who may be planning a pregnancy, because it helps prevent some congenital neurological defects. Folate deficiency can also cause a severe type of anaemia.

-Spinach is rich in carotenoids, plant pigments that are responsible for its dark green colour. Among these are lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults.

  • How to cook with it:

-Spinach can be served either raw or cooked. To avoid over-cooking try steaming or stir-frying it. These cooking methods preserve texture and flavour and they minimise the loss of many water-soluble vitamins, heating actually makes the protein in spinach easier to break down.

-before serving spinach, be careful to remove all the sand and dirt. One effective method is to submerge the spinach in a bowl of cold water and let the sand fall to the bottom, then remove and rinse the leaves. Dry them if making a salad. If you’re cooking the spinach, the water left on the leaves may be just the right amount with which to steam it.

-To enhance the carotenoid absorption, eat spinach with some olive oil.

  • An interesting facts about spinach:

-Spinach has a high concentration of oxalic acid. Although spinach contains iron, calcium and other minerals, their absorption is hindered by oxalic acid. Absorption can be increased by consuming spinach with other foods that are rich in vitamin C.

-You would have to eat a lot of spinach to get daily intake of calcium, which no one would do!

-Put spinach with vitamin C (citrus fruit, tomato, capsicum) to help body get to and utilise the iron.

  • Cooking ideas using spinach:

-Versatile and easy to hide in dishes! Stir-fries, casseroles, curries. Adds colour and texture to meals.

-Baby spinach leaves in salads, on sandwiches, in wraps (good toasted) or put on pizza.

-In pastry with ricotta or fetta. In frittata or quiche.

-In smoothies!

-Frozen spinach can be easier to use or freeze your own to avoid wastage.

5 tips to help you lose weight

With Gabrielle Maston 

  1. Don’t diet. Sets up restrictive eating practices and messes with your mind! Go for healthier food choices
  2. Listen to your body. It will tell you when to eat and when to stop eating (mindful eating).
  3. Don’t be hard on yourself. It doesn’t help, as you’ll just want to eat more. Be nice to yourself; if you’ve fallen off the wagon that’s ok just eat healthily at the next meal and try again. Don’t stress out about it!
  4. Eat more vegetables. They’re very good for your health: high in fibre, vitamins and minerals and will help to reduce your intake of less healthy foods if you fill up on veggies!
  5. Do something active every day. Many fad diets advise you to not exercise but exercise helps with weight loss and maintenance and helps you be healthy!
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