Food Rules that Change at the Next Traffic Light

How does a traffic light relate to eating?

traffic lightCategorizing the foods you eat into the 3 colors of a traffic light called “traffic light eating” can simplify making healthier choices.  The meaning of the 3 colors of the traffic light transcends age and language making this concept is an easy method to follow for children and adults alike, when categorizing foods.

Traffic light eating was developed by a doctor and focuses on the quality of food, not just quantity.  It is a simple guide to follow and encourages eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Green Light Foods
“Go!” (or “Grow Foods” when teaching young children) – foods that can and should be eaten every day at any time.  They include all fruits and vegetables that are nutrient dense – packed with nutrients but low in calories.

Yellow Light Foods“Slow down, proceed with caution” – foods that can and should be eaten every day but not too much. These foods are higher in calories and slightly more processed (foods that may need to be cooked) than green light foods and it is important to use portion control.

Red Light Foods“Stop!”– foods that should be avoided or eaten rarely and only in small amounts such as; fried, fast foods, highly processed packaged foods.  The Red Light reminds us to stop and consider making a healthier choice.


Continue reading for more information about each food “color”…


Green Light Foods 

traffic lights 3 - Copy (2)

Green Light Foods – “Go! Or Grow Foods” do not require a label.  They are GROWN, not manufactured in a factory.  Green light foods include all fruits and vegetables and can be eaten raw; they are naturally colorful, low in fat and nutrient dense.  Nutrient dense means the food is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients while having few calories, at the same time.  Green Light foods are real, whole foods.  They vary greatly in color, size and taste.

Green Light Foods are foods that you can and should eat plenty of every day. There are lots of Green Light Foods to choose from:  apples, bananas, cherries, dates, escarole, fennel, garlic, honeydew melon, iceberg lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, lemons, mangos…you get the idea.   Can you list more?


Yellow Light Foods

traffic lights 3 - CopyThe Yellow Traffic Light warns us to “slow down and proceed with caution”.  You can and should eat Yellow Light Foods every day but just go slow.  They are part of a healthy diet and provide different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients than Green Light Foods. Portion control is necessary when eating yellow light foods because they have more fat and calories.

Yellow Light Foods are gown, farmed or raised, but require additional processing before we can eat them.  Raw wheat from the fields is not very tasty or easy to digest.  Meat and eggs generally need to be cooked.  A Green Light Food can be changed into the Yellow category when it undergoes minimal processing.  For example; cooking an apple into apple sauce changes its nutritional value from Green Light to Yellow Light food.  Make sense?

The yellow light category includes; whole grain pasta, rice, noodles, beans, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt* and other dairy products.  *choose organic and least processed food


Red Light Foods 

traffic lights 3Red Light Foods are high in calories, fat and added sugar and low in nutrients.  They are often prepackaged, highly processed, and/or fried foods like potato chips, French fries and fried chicken.  They include manmade trans-fats and artificial flavors and sweeteners.  Many fast foods are considered Red Light Foods.

Green and Yellow Light Foods can easily become Red Light Foods when they are further processed in certain ways.  For example; a Green Light apple can easily turn into a Red Light apple when served as Hot Apple Pie at a fast food restaurant because it has now been cooked with extra sugar, syrup and is surrounded by a crust and deep fried to make it crispy.  The apple has now lost its nutritional value and the product contains extra bad carbohydrates and trans-fats.

The farther a food gets from its original source – being plant or animal – the more likely it is to become a Red Light Food.  Keep a watchful eye for when Green turns to Red Light – “Stop” and rethink your choice or eat these on a very rare occasion.

Other Red Light Foods include fatty and highly processed lunch meats, refined white grain products like breads, bagels, buns, muffins, crackers, rice and pasta.  Fried potato chips and store bought cookies, muffins, donuts, pastries and any prepackaged foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and food additives are ALL Red Light Foods. Oh! And don’t forget the many beverages on the market that contain artificial flavors and sweeteners.

That’s Traffic Light Eating in a nutshell.  Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on how to color code your grocery list and remake your pantry.

by:  Dorothy Ruggiero, LMT, CHC –sidebar-sears

Dorothy has been in the wellness field for over 20 years specializing in stress and pain relief.  She received her Health Coach Certification from Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, founded by world-renowned physician and author, Dr. William Sears.  The Institute is a leader in science-based health and wellness education that focuses on the four pillars of health; Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutrition (LEAN).  A certification by the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is obtained only after completing the extensive course work and meeting all requirements.  Once certified, a Health Coach possesses the knowledge, tools and resources to make a positive difference in the health of others.  

Contact Dorothy for more information about LEAN Health

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