Why the Traffic Light Food Classification System Works for Kids' Weight Management
For over 10 years, I have been working with kids and families to help them learn tools that will allow them to make healthier choices and to manage their weight. One of the most important tools is the Traffic Light Classification of food. This classification system was originally created by Dr. Leonard Epstein and is a key component in his ground-breaking research on effective childhood weight management programs.
In this program, all foods are classified as Red, Yellow, or Green light.
Red Light foods = STOP and Think. Red Light foods have very little, if any, nutritional value. They tend to be high in calories, sugar, and fat. These foods and beverages should be considered a treat and should be limited to just a couple each day.
Yellow Light foods = Slow Down. Yellow Light foods include whole grains and lean proteins. It is important to understand that Yellow Light foods make up most of our diet. They contain important nutrients and are moderately high in calories, fat, and sugar. Although healthy, it is important to be aware of portion size.
Green Light foods = GO! Green Light foods have high nutritional value and are low in calories, sugar, and fat. These foods include fruits, vegetables, water, and nonfat milk and are the healthiest choices for children, yet studies show that kids do not get enough of these foods every day. The best way to make sure kids are getting enough Green Light foods is to serve at least one fruit and one vegetable at every meal with milk or water.
The first step a family must take to manage their weight is to immediately start keeping track of what they eat and drink every day. They learn which foods are Red, Yellow, or Green, then they determine how many Red Light foods they eat in a week. This information is used to set a weekly Red Light goal, and the child will try to eat fewer reds than their goal. It does not take long for families to see the relationship between the number of Red Lights eaten and weight. When the number of Red Lights goes up, weight tends to go up. When the number of Red Lights goes down, weight seems to go down.
Tracking food using the Traffic Light System is healthy, easy to follow, and appropriate for the whole family. Even parents lose weight following the Traffic Light System! Below is a video explanation:
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