Food Rating System

The NCOAI star-associated food rating system is implemented utilizing colorful and interactive placemats.

The NCOAI Placemats™ incorporate a “star” associated food rating system on the front side of the placemats. Foods are rated according to their nutritional value: 5 stars (Gold) – best choices, 4 stars (Green) – good choices, 3 stars (Blue) – Ok choices, 2 stars (Red) – less healthy choices, and 0 stars (Grey) – avoid these choices.

Example – Food choices before the 2012 School Lunch changes:

NSLAI Before Changes

Upper left is a picture of a sample school lunch before the 2012 school lunch changes.  The lunch includes a slice of pizza, tator-tots, applesauce, ketchup and skim milk.  Above right is a copy of the NSLAI “Shoot for 20 Stars” Placemat with the total number of stars (points) available if the child eats/drinks everything on the tray:

Vegetable Ketchup No stars 0 points
Fruit Applesauce Blue Star 3 points
Grain White crust (pizza) Red Star 2 points
Protein No Protein Source No Stars 0 points
Dairy Skim Milk Gold Star 5 points

Ketchup was considered a vegetable according to the school lunch guidelines.  However, utilizing the star-associated food rating system ketchup is not listed as a vegetable.  So in this example no stars can be earned for the vegetable group.  The fruit choice is applesauce which earns a blue star with a value of 3.  Skim milk earns a gold star with a value of 5. The pizza crust is made from white flour for a value of 2 points (red star) in the grain category.  In this example there is not a protein source, hence no stars can be earned in this category.  The total number of stars earned in this example is ten which would not meet the goal of “Shooting for 20 Stars”.

Example – Food choices after the 2012 School Lunch changes.

NSLAI After Changes

Upper left is a picture of a sample school lunch after the 2012 school lunch changes.  The lunch includes baked sweet potato fries, tomatoes, baked chicken, whole grain roll, applesauce and skim milk.  Above is a copy of the NCOAI “Shoot for 20 Stars” Placemat with the total number of stars (points) available if the child eats/drinks everything on the tray:

Vegetable Sweet Potatoes/Tomatoes Gold Star 5 points
Fruit Applesauce Blue Star 3 points
Grain Whole Grain Roll Gold Star 5 points
Protein Baked Chicken Gold Star 5 points
Dairy Skim Milk Gold Star 5 points

The total number of stars awarded in this example is 23 which exceeds the goal of “Shoot for 20 Stars”. It’s important to emphasize that the food must be eaten to receive the corresponding number of stars.  The atmosphere in this activity must be one of acceptance of the children’s choices with gentle persuasion to choose 5 star and 4 star foods.

Upon completing the placemat instruction children should be able to answer the following questions:

1.   What are the 5 school lunch food categories? The 5 food categories are vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and protein.

2.   What is the best choice in each of the 5 school lunch categories? Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best choices with fat free milk or yogurt, whole grain products and baked fish, turkey, chicken and eggs.

3.   What number of stars would you receive if you eat French Fries? French fries would give me 0 stars.

4.   What number of stars would you receive if you only eat half of the fruit? I would get only half the number of stars.