Book divides food by green, yellow, red lights

  • Sun Apr 18th, 2010 3:12pm
  • Life

By Julie Deardorff Chicago Tribune

When little Danielle Dolgoff was just 3 years old, she looked up from her lunch and asked her mom how many calories were in her turkey sandwich.

“It’s a ‘green-light’ food,” pediatrician Joanna Dolgoff told her daughter. “Don’t worry about calories. Just try to make good choices and eat green-light foods.”

The metaphor stuck in their household. Now Dolgoff, who specializes in child and adolescent weight loss, also uses the colors of a traffic light to guide healthful food choices with young clients.

The principles, outlined in her new book, “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” ($21.99), are easy for a child to grasp: Green-light foods (Go!) are healthful and should represent the bulk of a day’s intake. Yellow-light foods (Slow!) should be eaten in moderation. And although red-light foods should be restricted, they aren’t forbidden.

Green-light foods usually have high amounts of nutrients and low levels of calories and fat grams, but Dolgoff — addressing the occasional need for convenience — includes “junky” green light foods, such as 100-calorie snack packs.

Yellow-light foods are slightly higher in fat and calories that can be eaten in moderation.

Red-light foods are treats that can be eaten twice a week.

Because many foods are a mixture of ingredients and may count as green, yellow and/or red. Many fast foods, for example, qualify as combination foods. And no foods are off-limits.

Rules of the road

From “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right”:

  • Most fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are “Free Fuel” (that) you can eat in unlimited quantity. Exceptions include potatoes, corn, some beans and avocados (which still are all green-light foods).

  • Green-light foods contain protein, fiber and other nutrients. They are lower in fat and calories than other foods. Examples: brown rice, whole-wheat bread, most nuts, fat-free or low-fat yogurt, fish, chicken and lean beef.

  • Yellow-light foods can be included in a child’s daily diet if eaten in the right portions. Examples: Olive oil, granola bars, dark chocolate, ice cream, soda, hot dogs.

  • Red light foods are treats that can be enjoyed twice a week. Examples: cake, pie, fried chicken, mozzarella cheese, heavy cream.