Traffic Light Eating
A simple way to choose quality foods
Do you have a picky eater, or a child who prefers sugary, high-fat junk food, to the point where she’s ignoring her body’s need for real nutrients? It’s not uncommon for parents to struggle to get their children to eat better. One of the best ways to help your child eat healthy is to teach them Traffic Light Eating. Just like when we are driving a car, a traffic light tells us what to do:
Green means “go”
Yellow tells us to “slow down”
Red means “stop” and think
Green light foods are “grow” foods. You want to help your child learn to eat as much as they want of these foods, which include all fruits and vegetables. Green light foods are: grown and not manufactured, low in calories, high in nutrients, colorful, and usually can be eaten raw.
Yellow light foods are “slow down” foods. These foods are okay to eat everyday, in moderation. Yellow light foods include: pasta, rice, bread, tortillas, noodles, eggs, lean meat, chicken, low fat yogurt, nuts and seeds, olive oil, soy foods, whole grains, fish, low fat cheese, and vegetable oil.
Red light foods are “stop” and think foods. When we come across a red light food, we should make a different choice or eat a smaller portion. Red light foods are low in nutrients; high in calories, fat or sugar; or contain artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, or trans-fats. They include: butter, cookies, candy, frozen yogurt, fatty meats, pastries, chips, and white bread.
Tips to Apply Traffic Light Eating (Even With a Picky Eater):
- Encourage your picky eater to eat more “green go foods” by making sliced fruits and vegetables readily available.
- Provide dips, such as yogurt or hummus, and allow your child to “play” with his food by dipping it as he goes.
- Don’t keep sweets in the house. When they’re not available, your child will be more willing to eat the nutritious foods you want to target.
- Use Traffic Light Eating to model healthy eating yourself!
- At dinner, talk about which foods are green light foods, which foods are yellow light foods, and which foods (if any) are red light foods.
Whether you’re dealing with a picky eater in particular, or you just want to encourage your children to choose more healthy foods, Traffic Light Eating makes eating healthy more fun. Remember, too, that our children are paying attention to what we eat, and setting a positive example is the key to turning healthy eating into a regular habit.
Click here to view the Traffic Light Eating Continuum interaction. (Opens in a new window)