As much as I share recipes and post pictures of all kinds of decadent treats, for most of my adult life food has been the enemy. For years I lived on lettuce, egg whites, ketchup and fat-free creamsicles, counting every calorie and punishing myself for the slightest transgression with excessive exercise. Needless to say, every day is still a struggle to make healthy choices. I know that proper nutrition can make a huge difference to my mood, energy level and overall well-being. That said, I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me.
Phewph. That was a difficult paragraph to write. (I may have rewritten it a dozen times.)
One thing that makes it easier to choose nutritious foods (for me, and I hope for you too) is Loblaw’s Guiding Stars program. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s an impartial rating system that rates foods based on their nutrient density (or as I try to think of it, their delicious goodness). Foods get points for vitamins, minerals, whole grains, dietary fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids, and lose points for saturated fats, trans fats, added sodium and added sugar. Rated foods have store tags marked with 1, 2 and 3 stars, with 3 stars being the most nutritious. So you can see at a glance how healthy a food is without having to decode the nutrition labels.
There are entire categories of foods that I have avoided for years that I am just starting to try. The star ratings make them seem less scary, more safe. (The 3-star ones anyway.) They also remind me to look at food on a holistic level, rather than just the calorie count.
More than 30,000 foods have been rated, so you’ll find Guiding Stars throughout the store. (That’s any Loblaw store, including Your Independent Grocer, The Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs and of course, Loblaws.)
Like the bread aisle, for example:
And look, you can even find 3-star pasta!
Not that I’m going to suddenly start eating pasta night after night. But the reassurance that it’s nutritious makes me much more likely to at least try it. And that’s what I’m trying to do: try small things.
What if a store tag shows no stars? That means the food hasn’t yet been rated, or it isn’t rated (coffee, tea, dried spices and other foods with less than five calories aren’t rated) or it doesn’t meet the nutritional criteria for a Guiding Star. (Want the nitty gritty on the science behind the program? You’ll find it here.)
Of course some of those less nutritious items make their way into our shopping cart. My kids love their Goldfish crackers at 0 stars and President’s Choice chocolate-covered Concerto cookies — also 0 stars — make awesome s’mores. But on the whole I think we make pretty healthy choices. If you’re a PC Plus member, you can look up your Guiding Stars Personal Profile online and see if that’s indeed the case. The tool tracks your purchases whenever you use your PC Plus card. Here’s how we’ve shopped this year so far:
And would you look at that — we’re at level 5 (level 5 is the highest) with starred products counting for 61% of our purchases. A full 49% of those are 3-star products (yay!) however 39% of our purchases are non-rated or 0-star foods, so we’ve still got lots of room for improvement. By the end of the year I would like to see us get to 75% in star-rated products, with 60% of those 3-star foods.
Ambitious? Maybe. A lot of numbers? Yes. But we’ll get there!
What about you? Will you shop the Guiding Stars along with me?
I partnered with Loblaw on this post. All opinions are my own.