Health Tips

Traffic Light Eating

Stop Light
Traffic Light Eating

Good nutrition is important for kids because what your child eats affects their behavior, growth, sleep, energy levels, immune system, focus and stamina. One of the best ways to help your child eat healthy is to teach them Traffic Light Eating, a concept I learned at The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. Just like driving a car, a traffic light tells us what to do.

Green Light Foods are “go” foods. These are foods you should encourage your child to eat plenty of throughout the day. Green light foods are high in nutrients, colorful and are grown not manufactured. When presenting these foods to a child label them grow foods, run fast foods, keep you from getting sick foods, pretty hair foods, personalize to meet your child’s interest. Green Light Foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Yellow Light Foods are “slow down” foods. They are OK to eat everyday but in moderation. Yellow Light Foods include:

  • Bread/Tortillas – Whole Grain
  • Rice/Pasta – Whole Grain
  • Cereal
  • Eggs
  • Lean Meat
  • Beans/Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Olive Oil
  • Soy Foods – Organic, Non-GMO
  • Fish
  • Chicken/Turkey
  • Dairy Products

Red Light Foods are “stop and think” foods. These are foods you are encouraged to think about so that you can make a better choice. These foods should not be eaten daily. Red Light Foods Include:

  • Chips
  • Cookies/Cake
  • Candy
  • Ice Cream
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Fatty Meats
  • Pastries/Donuts
  • White Bread, Pasta, Rice
  • Sugary Beverages (Soda, Juice)
  • Bacon, Ham, Hot Dogs, Processed Meats

Some ways to make Traffic Light Eating fun for kids is to make a game out of it, give them a sense of control over it and reward them for their effort. Give your kids stickers that are green, yellow and red and ask them to identify and label the foods that are in your kitchen with each color, especially yellow and red pantry items. Once they finish allow them to explain why each food got a certain color sticker. Count how many they got right and reward them for a job well done. Decide in advance how many of each color they should have per day or week and when they are under on red light foods and/or over on green light foods give them a small prize like extra play time after dinner, a package of stickers or a new pencil set. Keep it simple and fun. Always remind of them of what they are gaining by eating healthier like the ability to run faster, dance longer or jump higher.

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