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Healthy Kids Back to School - Traffic Light Eating 



What Your Body Needs

In order for cars to go they need the right kind of fuel, the same goes for humans.  We need special fuel for our bodies to run at their best.  Bodies need large amount of nutrients, which are called macronutrients.  The three main macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  The body also needs other nutrients but in smaller amounts, micronutrients.  Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals.  A great video for kids can be found here

Nutrition can be tricky.  We sometimes get mixed messages from the news, social media, friends and family, and even doctors.  So how do you know what to believe? How do you eat healthy?  

An easy way to eat healthy is to use Traffic Light Eating as a guide.  Just like a car, following the traffic signal tells you what to do. 

Image by Brooke Lark


Green means go, so Green Light foods are "go" foods.  You can eat as much as you want.  They help children grow and help us stay strong and healthy.  

Green Light Foods are: 

  • Grown and not manufactured/processed

  • Lower in calories

  • Higher in nutrients

  • Very vibrant colors

  • Can normally be eaten raw

Green Light Foods are all fruits and vegetables.  




Yellow mean "slow down."  Yellow light foods are foods that we still can eat every day but we don't eat too much because they are typically higher in calories than green light foods and have more fat and sugar.  

Some Yellow Light foods include:

  • Whole grain pasta, rice, grains

  • Whole grain breads and tortillas

  • Eggs

  • Chicken/Turkey

  • Lean red meat

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Olive oil

  • Soy foods

  • Cheese

  • Greek yogurt




We all know that a red light means "stop."  Red Light Foods are those foods that we should "stop and think" about.  Sometimes that looks like considering a different choice, a smaller portion, or having that food only on special occasions.  

Red Light Foods are typically:

  • Low in nutrients

  • High in calories

  • Highly processed

  • Contain artificial sweeteners

  • Contain hydrogenated oils or trans-fats

  • High in fat

  • High in sugar


Some example of Red Light foods include cookies, cakes, chips, white bread, soda, fatty or processed meats, donuts, and candy.  Foods that are packaged, have expiration dates that are far in the future, and contain many additives/preservatives are usually Red Light Foods.   

Traffic Light Eating is easy for kids to understand and when talking to your child about which foods help them stay healthy, use terms such as "grow foods," "get strong foods," "run-fast foods," or "keep you from getting sick foods."  

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