Following the rules of eating can be the same as following some rules of driving. All foods can be placed in one of three categories, and it helps in making healthier decisions.
The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, where I earned my health coach certification, teaches traffic light eating, and foods are categorized as Green Light, Yellow Light or Red Light foods.
When you think about it, it’s a pretty genius way to monitor what we feed our kids and ourselves to stay on a more nutritious path.
Below I will detail what each category is, and the types of food that fall into each category. This is a super simple, straight-forward approach to eating. It’s not about dieting, counting calories or points.
Green Light Foods
These are your “go” foods, just like you go at a green light. You can eat as much as these foods as you like.
Attributes of Green Light foods:
- Grown and not processed or manufactured
- Low in calories
- High in nutrients
- Very colorful
- Can usually be eaten raw
As you probably figured out by now, Green Light foods are all fruits and vegetables. No other types of food fall into the Green Light category.
Yellow Light Foods
These are foods where you want to “slow down” and think about how much you eat. These foods are okay to eat every day, but you should be careful not to eat too much.
Of the three categories, I find this one the most interesting. Green and Red Light foods are pretty easy to identify. Yellow Light foods can be a little tricky at times.
Yellow Light foods include:
- Lean red meat
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain pasta
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Greek Yogurt
- Whole grain rice
- Soy foods
- Ice Cream- Yes!! I was beyond happy to learn ice cream was a Yellow Light food. I recommend brands like Breyers Vanilla or Haggen Dazs Strawberry, in moderation of course. When you look at the ingredient list you will only see about 5 or 6 ingredients listed. They don’t have a lot of the crap other brands and flavors have.
Yellow Light foods have more calories than Green Light foods. Eating these foods takes a more common-sense approach.
Red Light Foods
STOP! When it comes to Red Light foods, you should stop and think about eating these. Think about a better option or smaller portion.
Red Light foods include:
- Frozen Yogurt
- Potato Chips
- Doughnuts/Sweet Baked Goods
- Bacon, Hot Dogs (other processed meats)
- White bread/rice
Now let’s be real here, I am never going to fully give up bacon! I am sure you to have Red Light food(s) that you cannot part with. That’s okay!
I did completely give up something on this list (doughnuts), and I recommend you pick a Red Light food to give up also for you and your children.
Dr. Sears refers to some Red Light foods as special occasion foods. When you go to a birthday party, are you really going to skip the cake? Probably not! So just enjoy yourself, and let your kids enjoy themselves.
Traffic light eating is not about dieting but is a lifestyle choice. Putting foods into these categories helps simplify healthy eating choices.
Now, I know there will be some challenges. We have probably all faced a picky eater or two. Have healthier options around to pick from. For example, set out a bowl of grapes on the kitchen counter.
Look at this method as a way of educating your child without being too pushy. Be creative and make it fun!
Helpful Tip: To teach younger kids about Traffic Light Eating, cut out some foods from your paper and/or advertisements. Get three sheets of colored construction paper (green, yellow and red). Each sheet represents a traffic light category. Have your children glue/tape the pictures of food onto the right color paper. For example, a picture of apples would be glued/taped to the green construction paper since it is a Green Light food.
Recommendation: (Affiliate Link) Super Healthy Kids is a great resource for healthy recipes and kitchen organization.
Upcoming: Lookout for posts on healthy cereals, fats, and carbohydrates. My goal is to always provide information in digestible chunks of information so you are not overwhelmed!