With 63% of adults and 1 in 4 children being overweight, the Australian government and food industry has introduced a voluntary Health Star Rating system for packaging, enabling consumers to make smarter choices.
Introducing the Star Rating System
According to Healthstarrating.gov.au, “The Health Star Rating is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars.” The goal of having this key nutritional information on the front of the packaging is to help consumers access basic information at a glance, making it easier to compare products and make better choices.
As healthstarrating.gov.au explains, the rating system aims to provide “consistency of information between the Health Star Rating and the Nutritional Information Panel”. All foods are therefore assessed using the same basic criteria, and provide information per 100g/100ml.
Controversially, this system is voluntary at the moment so it might not be appearing on all packaging on your supermarket shelves. Catherine Saxelby, nutritionist, blogger and author, suggests manufacturers may not use the system if their products rank at 1 or 2 stars so as not to dissuade customers from purchasing their product.
Using the rating system to compare breakfast cereals
One meal that has been in the headlines lately is breakfast, particularly cereals. Alison Ginn, LiveLighter Program Manager and Accredited Practicing Dietitian, told Compare the Market, “despite what the box might tell you, many popular breakfast cereals are low in fibre and high in sugar and salt.” Alison continued to say: “Many people would be shocked to learn that some cereals are up to one third sugar, and one bowl can contain twice as much salt as a small packet of chips”.
Below are 5 cereals that commonly land in the shopping basket; some are winning the cereal health awards, and others are a little lacking in the nutrition department.
*All values for dietary fibre and sugar are quoted in grams per 100g of cereal, sodium is in mg per 100g.
First up… Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain
Star rating: 2
Dietary fibre: 2.7g
With “Nutri” in the title, some may be a little surprised that this cereal gets 2 out of 5 stars. The recommended serving is 40g, which would give you 8.8g of protein, 27.6g of carbohydrate, 12.8g of sugar, 1.1g of fibre and 192mg of sodium.
The cereal with the highest salt content is… Black and Gold Corn Flakes
Star rating: 2
Dietary fibre: 1.9g
According to healthyfoodguide.com.au the recommended intake of sodium is between 920 and 2300mg per day, so eating a 35g of this cereal could give you about 16% of your RDI.
Salt is essential for health, but too much salt can be harmful. Nutrition Australia state that “Most Australian adults have a daily salt intake of about 10 grams”, 5-10 times higher than recommended.
Granola that packs a sugar punch… Jordan’s Crunchy Oat Granola: Fruit and Nut Combo
Star rating: 3
Dietary fibre: 4.5g
The recommended serving size here is 45g, which give you includes 11.7g of sugar, 2.0g of fibre, 5mg of sodium and 11.7 grams of sugar – that’s over 25% sugar, and over 10% of an average adult’s RDI of 90g.
Sugar is a carbohydrate used as energy in the body, but as betterhealth.vic.gov.au point out, regularly ingesting too much sugar can “contribute to health problems including obesity and tooth decay”.
The highest sugar award goes to… Coles Honey Crunch with Nuts
Star rating: 2
Dietary fibre: 2.8g
At a relatively small serving size of 30g, this cereal still packs a sugar punch. At With 12.6g of sugar per serving, that’s 14% of your daily sugar intake lies in one small bowl.
Winning in the Fibre stakes… Aldi Golden Vale Just Bran or Woolworths Select High Fibre Bran
Star rating: 5
Dietary fibre: 35.5g
The RDI of Fibre is around 25g for women and 30g for men. So, with a serving size of 45g, one bowl of either product gives 16g of dietary fibre; that’s 64% of the RDI for women, and 53% for men.
As stated by Nutrition Australia, insoluble fibre in cereal helps promote digestive health and helps you to feel fuller for longer.
Alison’s 3 tips for choosing cereals
When choosing cereal, Alison Ginn at LiveLighter advises to:
- Check the first three ingredients on the ingredients list. These ingredients make up the majority of the cereal.
- Try to choose less processed, wholegrain-based products.
- Remember, cereals are not the only type of food suitable for breakfast.
If you’re looking for some delicious and healthy breakfast ideas, LiveLighter feature many recipes here. Finally, whether you are serious about cereal, tempted by toast, or have another way to start the day, it’s a good idea to be breakfast smart and give your body the morning boost it deserves.