Red wine is healthy! But not too much. Chocolate’s good for your heart! But no, not really. Fats are unhealthy, but you need healthy fats. Gluten-free is the way to go! Except when it’s not. Man, nutrition is confusing, isn’t it?
It’s hard to separate food fads from facts, and to know exactly what “healthy” really means. When each new month ushers in a new superfood we’ve been missing out on, or a food trend we need to stop following, it can feel pretty overwhelming shopping for healthy meals for my family. This is called, “nutrition confusion”, and I’ve got a really great way to handle it, thanks to a helpful program called “Guiding Stars”.
I was invited to take a tour with an in-store dietician and learn about the “Guiding Stars” program, found exclusively at Loblaw banner grocery stores across Canada. I’m a label reader for a few reasons: my son has life-threatening food allergies, and I’m also interested in nutritional content in general. I’m really happy to report that the Guiding Stars program is a great resource to help simplify nutritious choices. It just makes it so easy! And easy means that shoppers can feel empowered when trying to choose foods that can contribute to the health of their families without making it an arduous process.
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Every food item in participating stores is rated using a top-secret algorithm (read: lotsa math involved but yay science!) and given a star rating. Read more about it HERE. So foods can be given anywhere from zero to three stars (three being the best), and you’re able to shop using the rating system alone if you wanted. It isn’t there to tell you what to buy, it just guides you towards healthier options. Obviously fruits and vegetables are great options, but even those are rated — something with higher sugar would lose points for that, but if it’s high in fibre, it would gain points. And that goes for packaged items, too. So they’ve made it really easy to compare different brands of, say, premade lasagna or pizza. And no, there’s no bias for brands. If you’re going to be buying an item anyhow, you might as well compare the nutritional content to an equal product, right? And it’s really handy in the cereal and snack aisles, let me tell you.
Something I’d never noticed in store before was this handy book in the produce section:
The book lists the nutritional information for each produce item, with a description of it, and ways to use it. How cool is that? That means you don’t have to guess what that weird-looking root is, you can find out easily, and learn how to use it, too. It’s particularly handy for adventurous eaters like us, who love trying new items.
The Loblaw dietician also suggested I include my kids in meal planning, to make it more fun, and help teach them about nutrition, too. With their four food groups in mind, I let the kids plan out a couple meals:
The only guideline given to them was that they had to choose items from each of the four options, to give them a balanced meal according to Canada’s Food Guide. I’m not sure we’re all going to love Mason’s meal, but I know that it’s a really good step towards the kids planning balanced, healthy menus for me, and that’s a bonus.
The Guiding Stars rating is clearly visible on the price tag for each food, and I like that with a glance, I know what I’m buying. Points are awarded for things like vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, whole grains and Omega-3s, and deducted for things like saturated and trans fats, added sugar and added sodium. And with more than 30,000 foods in their database, it’s a pretty reliable way to shop, I think.
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Good luck, everyone!
Disclaimer: I was compensated for writing this post, and given a $50 PC® Gift Card to award to one lucky winner. But my opinions, as always, are my own. (Plus I’m already a Loblaws shopper, so there’s that.)