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Dining Halls to Use 'Guiding Stars' for Nutritional Guidance

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
August 19, 2009

Patrons who want to make healthy choices when frequenting UNH dining halls will now be able to do so more easily thanks to a partnership that brings the Guiding Stars nutritional ranking system to campus.

Currently in use in more than 2,500 grocery stores, the plan rates food using zero to three stars based on nutritional value according to the recommendations of the FDA and the USDA.

Foods high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and whole grains receive one to three stars for good, better, best nutritional content, with three stars denoting the best. Trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugar and sodium impact the ratings.

“All of our product identifiers that say things like ‘chicken cacciatore’ will have the Guiding Stars symbol,” says Jon Plodzik, director of dining. “People will know whether the food is high in fiber, a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron--it will help them make good choices.”

Plodzik describes use of the Guiding Stars’ at-a-glance system as a clear way to identify food that has met nutritional criteria.

“It’s so simple, we’re anxious to see how students react. We hope they’ll say ‘hey, this is great.’ It’s not meant as a deterrent from choices that they might still want to make once in a while,” Plodzik says. “But we hope this will help people think more holistically.”

Conversations with Guiding Stars Licensing Co., based in Scarborough, Maine, began early this year. While it is an easy process to rate a jar of salsa, it is more complicated to assess the burrito that the dining halls serve with that salsa, Plodzik says.

“It creates a more interesting challenge for them, to rate all the ingredients in an item,” he says noting that, to date, Guiding Stars use had been limited to stores and supermarkets.

Currently only one other college has adopted the healthy eating plan.

“We’re pioneers in the use of this system,” Plodzik says. “We’re excited about it. It’s a nice clear way for people to know what food is good for them.”

Last year, UNH Dining, nationally recognized for the quality of its food program,
served 2.3 million meals in the dining halls.


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