The Health Star Rating

HSR star package label with 3.5 star rating

The Health Star Rating (HSR) system is a quick and easy way to compare the nutrient content of packaged foods. It scores the overall nutritional content of packaged foods and rates them from ½ a star to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice.

To choose healthier products, look for products with more stars. Only packaged Occasional food and drinks with an HSR of 3.5 stars or more should be sold in school canteens in addition to Everyday food.

How do you use it?

  • The HSR can help you make healthier choices for packaged food and drinks, and should be used to compare similar products.
  • The way to use the HSR is to choose between brands of the same type of product. For example, when comparing breakfast cereal, the product with the most stars is the healthier choice.
  • The HSR is not meant to compare unlike foods, such as yoghurt and breakfast cereal, and it only appears on packaged foods.
  • Unpackaged fresh foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, or fresh lean meat are healthy even though they don’t have an HSR

How are the star ratings calculated?

  • Foods are given HSRs based on their nutritional profile per 100g.
  • The rating is based on energy (kilojoule) content, as well as a balance of less-healthy nutrients (saturated fat, salt and sugar) and more-healthy nutrients (dietary fibre, protein and proportion of fruit, vegetable and legume content).
  • Everyday foods are still the best choices for a healthy diet.

How is the HSR used in the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy?

  • The food and drink criteria that underpin the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy use the Australian Dietary Guidelines to classify foods as Everyday or Occasional.
  • For packaged food and drinks, the HSR is used to determine healthier choices between brands of the same type of Occasional food and drink products. For example, the HSR is a quick and easy way to help you find the healthiest Occasional muesli bar.
  • Only packaged Occasional food and drinks with an HSR of 3.5 stars and above should be sold in school canteens.

Use the HSR for Occasional food and drinks

These foods are likely to have packaged products available with a HSR of 3.5 stars and above:

  • pies.
  • sausage rolls.
  • ice-cream.
  • muesli bars.
  • potato wedges.
  • crumbed/coated chicken.
  • salami.
  • salty snacks.
  • chips.
  • pretzels.

Few, if any of these packaged products will have a rating of 3.5 stars and above:

  • cakes.
  • sweet biscuits.
  • pastries.
  • chocolate.
  • confectionery.

Packaged products with a HSR of 3.5 stars or less should not be sold in NSW schools.

What doesn’t it do?

  • The HSR does not include portion (serving) size. In other words, it tells you how healthy a product is, but it doesn’t tell you how much is healthy to eat.
  • It is also based on adult nutrient recommendations. To account for this, the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy food and drink criteria also includes recommended portion (serving) size limits for product categories.

How can I find the HSR of a product?

  • The HSR is voluntary, so not all packaged food products will have it on the label. However, it is gradually being introduced by the food industry and you will see it on more and more packaged food and drinks in the supermarket.
  • The HSR system applies only to packaged foods, so fresh food like meat from the butcher or fresh vegetables from the supermarket aren't included.
  • Most fresh food are Everyday food.
  • Packaged food can also be Everyday food (e.g cheese and yoghurt).
  • A database is being developed by NSW Health for release in 2017 that will provide information on the Everyday and Occasional classification and HSR for a range of food and drinks commonly sold in canteens. In the meantime, the HSR of around 30,000 food and drinks is available at FoodSwitch.

Do I need to use the HSR when ordering food for students with special dietary needs?

  • School canteens often need to provide products for children with special dietary needs, e.g. gluten-free or lactose-free products.
  • The nutritional quality of these products varies, and packaged products with an HSR of 3.5 stars or above may not be available in some food categories.
  • School canteens should aim to provide the healthiest options that have an HSR of 3.5 stars or above for students with special dietary needs, except where a suitable alternative isn't available.

Find out more about the Health Star Rating system.

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