Health Halos

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“Health halo” foods are foods that are perceived as good for us. These are the products that end up in your shopping cart thanks to their good reputation. When it comes to Guiding Stars earning products, sometimes it’s surprising where you find them. However, you may be equally shocked to find very few stars among these popular health halo foods. If these categories of foods are on your grocery list, be sure to follow the stars.


Granola has long been the go-to cereal for health-conscious folks. Made from oats and usually nuts, dried fruit, and seeds, granola does seem to be a nutritious choice. However, it’s a different story when those ingredients are combined with added sugars and other sweet additions. About one third of the common breakfast granolas earn one or two Guiding Stars, meaning good and better nutrition. Why so few? Because granola may contain fiber, whole grains, and heart-healthy fat, but it can also be high in added sugar. Use Guiding Stars to choose nutrient-dense granolas (or make your own). It’s also best to use granola as an “add-on” or garnish rather than eat a full bowl. 

Greek yogurt

The Greek yogurt section of your supermarket is packed with products for all age groups and preferences, including drinkable options. Greek yogurt is strained differently than American-style yogurt, resulting in a high-protein, thicker blend. But plain Greek yogurt can be a bit tart. To make it more “taste bud-friendly,” most manufacturers add sweeteners, creating a product that’s very high in added sugar. Avoid the added sugar by choosing Guiding Stars earning options and turning tart, non-fat, plain Greek yogurt into a delicious smoothie.

Dairy alternatives

Over the past few years, dairy alternatives have grown significantly. You can now enjoy “milk” made from peas, oats, nuts, soy, and more. With a health halo reputation, these beverages aren’t just for dairy-free individuals. They’re also the preferred option among many following a plant-based diet. And while you will find options that earn Guiding Stars, there are fewer than you might expect. To ensure your milk really is a health halo, look for star earning products which are lower in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is celebrated by influencers and their followers who view it as the “healthier” sugar. It’s made by evaporating the sap from palm fruit, so devotees see it as less processed. They also think it has less impact on blood sugar than granulated sugar—but it’s still sugar! In fact, for the most part your body doesn’t really know one sugar from another. (And there are many factors that impact blood sugar control.) The bottom line: Coconut sugar is fine to have from time to time. But it’s not something to seek out or view as superior to granulated sugar.

Protein bars

When you search the Guiding Stars Food Finder for protein bars, there are 445 options. However, when filtered for those earning a 1, 2 or 3 star rating, the number drops to 110 (with most being “good” choices). Many people put a health halo on protein bars—as the go-to post-workout snack to support their active lifestyle. But, as we’ve written before, bars are not necessarily the best option. With long ingredient lists, it’s easy for these products to include ingredients and attributes (like saturated fat) that we should limit to support good health. Instead, consider making your own simple, balanced snacks that meet your unique needs.