Customers seeing stars with new nutrition rating system

12 years ago

  PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Employees, patients and visitors taking in a meal at the A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital cafeteria may notice some changes that will have them seeing stars.

The Aroostook Medical Center has implemented Guiding Stars, a system that uses a three-star rating system to help people make nutritious meal and snack choices. The system assigns zero, one, two or three stars to most items for sale in the cafeteria, and small tags point consumers to the foods that have the most nutrition.

“Using Guiding Stars to help you choose a food item is very easy,” said Nicole Doughty, RD, LD, food and nutrition services manager at the hospital. “The more stars a food item has, the more nutritional power it packs.”

Upon entering the cafeteria, customers will see tags near many of the foods in the hot bar, salad bar, sandwich station and cooler. Foods without tags either have zero stars or have not yet been reviewed for inclusion in the system.

Guiding Stars takes an objective, scientific approach to measuring positive attributes including vitamins, minerals, fiber and whole grains and less desirable qualities like saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. It has been adopted at other Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems member hospitals and businesses across the region and country.

“Guiding Stars was created using the latest research on nutrition,” said Doughty. “It is based on solid science. But people who use Guiding Stars every day don’t need to understand all of the research behind it. It is designed to be simple. It will do well at TAMC because anyone can use it, even people who are on the go and are looking to grab something quick to eat.”

One of the guiding principles of the system is that it does not aim to tell consumers what to choose. The creators of Guiding Stars believe that consumers should choose the foods that best meet their needs. Guiding Stars simply provides the information needed to help people make better choices.

TAMC President and Chief Executive Officer Sylvia Getman hopes that Guiding Stars will catch on with visitors and patients, as well as employees, and she sees an opportunity for it to expand in the community. She says that the decision to move to Guiding Stars was easy.

“As the region’s most comprehensive health care organization, we’re proud to take a leadership role in helping our patients, visitors and employees make better choices,” she said. “Guiding Stars demonstrates that food can be both nutritious and delicious.”

The algorithm used by Guiding Stars is based on recommendations provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Academies of Science and World Health Organization.