The Worst 30 Foods for you to eat (beware)

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 08 October 2014.
Tagged: Health Star Rating, junk food

The Worst 30 Foods for you to eat (beware)
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Using the new Health Star Rating, I’ve calculated the numbers of Stars that the worst 30 foods will get. However, you’re unlikely to ever see any Star ratings on them because it’s a voluntary code. Think chocolate bars, lollies, cheesy, salty snacks in a packet, choc cookies and soft drinks. Yes there are many more – and I’d love to hear your requests – but here we did the calculations for you on the ones that sprang to mind.

How we calculated the star rating

We used the official Calculator which is simply an Excel file that you download and enter the nutrition numbers. It contains macros embedded in it and does the maths for you to work out what your product can claim. I don’t find the HSR system all that helpful but it would be handy for comparing similar foods – but only if all the foods carry it. See here for my overview.

Where to find the numbers you need

We spent most of our time sourcing the nutrition numbers from the back of the label (required by law on virtually all packaged foods) and checking their ingredient lists to see if they sported any of the ‘good’ ingredients e.g. dried fruit, nuts, legumes or vegetables that could be leveraged against the negative nutrients.

The Worst 30 Foods

Here are the worst foods you can eat according to the Health Star Rating. Any food with a rating of less than 1½, as these are, are not good for your health. Don’t put them in your shopping trolley if you want to stay fit and healthy.

No Food Brand Star Rating
Food with Half a Star
 1  Mars Bar                                                                                                                   Mars  ½
 2  Nutella  Ferrero  ½
 3  Hazelnut Chocolate  Cadbury  ½
 4  Sugar  Generic  ½
 Mars Pods  Mars  ½
 Kit Kat  Nestlé  ½ 
 7  Cheezels Cheese Snacks  Cheezels  ½
 8  Smarties Chocolate Bar  Nestlé  ½
 9  Smarties  Nestlé  ½
 10  Chocolate Chip Cookies  Paradise  ½
 11  Toblerone Chocolate  Toblerone  ½
 12  Snickers Chocolate Bar  Snickers  ½
 13  Oreo's Original  Nabisco  ½
 14  Tim Tam's Original  Arnott's  ½
 One star
15  Cola Drink  Coca Cola  1
16  Honey  Generic  1
17  Barley Sugar Lollies  Coles  1
18  Potato Chips Original  Thins  1 
19  Corn Chips Cheese Supreme  Doritos  1
20  Croissants  Coles Bakery   1
21  Fanta Orange  Coca Cola  1
 One and a half stars
 22  Coco Pops  Kellogg  1 ½
 23  Golden Syrup  Generic  1 ½
 24  Doughnuts with Cinnamon and Sugar  Generic  1 ½
 25  Asian Deep-Fried Chicken with Soy Sauce  Generic  1 ½
 26  BBQ Meat Lovers' Pizza  Pizza Hut  1 ½
 27  Marshmallows  Pascall  1 ½
 28  Corn Chips Original  Doritos  1 ½
 29   Jelly Beans  Allen's  1 ½
 30  Frozen Fish Fingers  Coles  1 ½



Why these 30 got so few stars

The rating is worked out from an algorithm that takes into account kilojoules (Calories) plus three ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ nutrients - saturated fat, sugars and sodium which are associated with an increase in the risk factors for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease and obesity.

This is balanced against the content of fruit, vegetable, nuts or legumes (FVNL) and also protein or fibre – which these 30 are pretty low in.

  1. They are classified as “Non-core foods” so don’t fit into the basic healthy fare of vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish/fresh meat/eggs or whole grains that are recommended for good health.
  2. Usually kilojoule or Calorie dense so they’re up at the top end of the kilojoule-density ranking with around 2000 kJ per 100 grams for Oreos or Tim Tams.
  3. High in the negative nutrients of sugar or salt and/or saturated fat.
  4. Low in fibre or protein
  5. None have much of the redeeming ingredients i.e. FVNL.

You’ll recognise them. They’re what we all call junk food or rubbish. Extras, treats, indulgences – examples of ultra-processed foods that have been refined, over-processed and are high in that threesome of High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS). These are foods that we reach for when a craving hits us. Cheap, widely available, sold in large portion sizes and too irresistible to stop at just a sensible amount!

Some HSR anomalies

  • Barley sugar sweets scored 1 Star yet white sugar gets only ½. The reason? The Barley Sugars only have 77% sugars while sugar comes in at 100%.
  • Honey scores a low of 1 Star also. That's also because it has about 85% sugars while sugar comes in at 100%.
  • A few more anomalies worth noting – most of these foods, as I said, are the treat foods or recognisable junk foods but three of them, worryingly, are foods regularly fed to kids as part of their normal diets, not as treats – Nutella, Kellogg’s Coco Pops and Coles Fish Fingers!

The bottom line

The Health Star Rating does score those processed, unhealthy products down with a low 1 ½, 1 or only a half a Star – which is as it should be.

However, as it’s a voluntary labelling scheme, I doubt that these Worst 30 foods with such low ratings will ever print them on the front of their packs. Who wants to advertise that their food has only 1 Star? So consumers won’t get to see the ratings on these junk foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat that they should NOT be buying. You’ll have to read them all here!

If your regular diet is full of junk foods such as soft drink, chocolate bars, salty snack foods, not forgetting fried foods, processed deli meats and greasy take-aways, you have an increased risk of major health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer. So limit the indulgences to once a week. What’s more make sure your kids aren’t eating these foods because if they are you could be setting them up for a lifetime of health problems, something none of us wants.

Even if you'd rather have a bag of corn chips than a corn cob, you can make healthier choices in processed foods OR at least avoid the foods you know absolutely aren't good for you.

Credit: Thanks to recipe developer and nutritionist Gabriela Oporto for her time crunching the figures into the HSR Calculator for me. You’ll find Gaby on @F00dsForever on Twitter.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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