Sunday, June 07, 2015

Help With Healthy Shopping Choices #PCStars #GuidingStars

Feeding ourselves and our families a healthy diet is important to most of us I believe, and we all try our best to make good choices. Those choices are guided by many things, including availability of healthy options, constraints of time and/or finances, and knowledge of what makes a food healthy or not. Loblaw's Guiding Stars program has set out to make at least that last part a little clearer.

What are the Guiding Stars? Where will you find them? What do they mean? 

The Guiding Stars program scores foods using a credits and debits system. Foods earn points for things like high dietary fibre, whole grains, vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3s. They lose points for saturated fats, trans fats, added sodium and added sugars.

Foods receive either 1, 2, or 3 stars based on this rating, with 3 being the highest/healthiest. The star rating is clearly shown on the product's shelf tag. If a product has no stars, it either did not meet minimum criteria for a star rating, it is a very new product not yet rated, or it is a product that doesn't qualify for rating - store-made product or contains fewer than 5 calories per serving.

Your Personal Scorekeeper

When you join the free PC Plus program, you not only earn points you can redeem towards free groceries, you also get access to a personal Guiding Stars dashboard. On this dashboard you can track how well your purchases stack up, and how you compare to shoppers across the country.

Here's my year-to-date:

You can see I have some work to do. I score a 2 out of 5 in terms of the health factor in my cart. Only 33% of my overall purchases were star-rated, but at least the majority of those were at the 3 star level!

Where will you find the most stars?

Fresh, unprocessed food, especially fruits and vegetables are the best bets for a 3 star rating, which makes sense. Although you will find high star ratings throughout the stores.

 Fish is a really healthy option, whether fresh or frozen.

Boo's favourite, corn on the cob, scores 3 stars as well. Remember, most vegetables are just as nutritious when frozen, so don't fear the freezer aisle, especially when fresh veggies and fruits are out of season.

Generally speaking, processed foods are not going to score well, but I was pleasantly surprised to find one of our processed food staples with some star power:
Yes, KD gets one star, probably because of the vitamins and minerals added to the mix. Regardless, I feel a little better about occasionally serving this to the boys.  And really that's an important point - everything in moderation. The Guiding Stars program is not meant to turn you off non-starred items forever. You don't need to completely eliminate them from your diet. Just use the stars to help you make informed decisions on what to eat when, and how often.

Hubs and I could live on eggs, so I'm happy to see the 2 star rating here. Eggs are a great source of protein and so quick to prepare on busy days.

As per the guidelines mentioned above, these Omega 3 eggs score extra points and come out with a 3 star rating.

A final point - if you want to get more information on your favourite foods, or are wondering why they received the start score they did, check out the Food Finder on the Guiding Stars website. You can even browse through categories and filter results by star ratings, so you can work on your healthy grocery list before even leaving the house. Want a 3 star cereal? The Food Finder will give you a list.

What about you? Do you shop at one of the Loblaws family of stores? I'd love to hear about your experiences with the Guiding Stars program, and if it has led to any changes in your shopping and eating habits. Let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Loblaws. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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