What is the Health Star Rating?

Should we use it to make healthy food choices at the supermarket?

When doing our grocery shopping these days, there are so many different brands and products to choose from it can make it difficult to know which packaged food is a healthy choice.   

This is made especially hard when there are so many health claims made on the front of the packet like, “all-natural”, “organic”, “fat-free”, “sugar-free” and the list goes on.  

To attempt to make the choice easier for us, The Health Star Rating system was introduced.  

So, what exactly is it and should we use it?  


What is the Health Star Rating System?  

The HSR is a labelling system that provides us with a simple way to compare the nutrition of similar products e.g. comparing two different yoghurts or two different crackers.   

The HSR system calculates the overall nutrition content of packaged food products by assessing the total energy (kilojoules), saturated fat, sodium (salt), sugar, fiber, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content of the product. Based on this assessment, products are assigned a health star rating, ranging from ½ to 5 stars. The higher the stars the product has, the healthier the choice in it’s category.  

You will find it on the front of many packaged food and it can appear in two ways:   

The video below by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care can be really helpful! 

But it’s also good to be aware of what the Health Star Rating is NOT  

  • The HSR is not on every packaged food because it is a voluntary system for food manufacturers to partake in. 
  • The HSR is also not on many healthy foods that are often un-packaged like fresh fruits and vegetables or lean meats.  
  •  The HSR was not created to replace the dietary advice from the Australian Dietary Guidelines; to eat a variety of nutritious foods as part of a balanced diet. 
  • It does not necessarily mean a product with a high HSR rating provides for a complete, balanced diet. 
  • It does not mean that products with a high HSR replace items from the core five food groups. 
  • It also doesn’t mean that products with a high HSR should be eaten in excess. 

So, while the HSR can be a useful tool to make healthier choices between a certain category, it is also important to equip yourself with label-reading skills so you can be sure you are making the healthiest choices for you and your family.   

Reading the nutrition labels on the back can be a tad overwhelming especially if you are not sure what you are looking for!   

So, let’s break it down & make it as simple as possible.   

Label Reading  

  1. The first thing you want to do is make sure you are looking in the per 100g column. 
  2. Check the sugar content: Aim for less than 15g per 100g. If the sugar is higher than this have a look at the ingredients list and check that sugar (or alternative names for added sugar)* is not listed high on the ingredient list, for example not in the top 3 ingredients.

    *Alternative names for added sugar: Dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose Example of ingredients list where sugar is listed high in the ingredients list 
  3. Total Fat: Generally choose foods with less than 10g per 100g. *Saturated Fat: Aim for the lowest, per 100g. Less than 3g per 100g is best.  
  4.  Sodium (Salt) Choose lower sodium options among similar foods. Food with less than 400mg per 100g is good, and less than 120mg per 100g is best.  
  5.  This is label reading in its simplest form. We discuss label reading in further detail in all our programs.  


  • The HSR system allows you to compare the nutrition content of similar foods, not different foods.   
  • The more stars out of five, the healthier the product choice.  
  •  The HSR is not on every pack.  
  • The HSR is just one quick way of comparing foods in the supermarket to find a healthier choice.  
  • Always use your label-reading skills to help you find the healthiest choices for your family.