Baby Steps to Good Nutrition, Part Two, Traffic Light Eating

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The doors sighed open, sounding as tired as I felt. We passed the checkout lane where the cashier leaned against her conveyor belt and yawned. We passed the cooler where the eggs and yogurt displayed the bright colors of their packaging.

I pursued a single purpose, the only goal that could lure me out of bed to dress and drive to the grocery store this early on a Sunday morning: donuts.donuts-268250_960_720[1]

I craved golden, glazed donuts with the flaky white icing that disintegrates when bitten. I let my daughter choose the most attractive package from the bakery shelf while I selected bottled orange juice and instant coffee. Then my daughter and I moved to the cash register where the cashier drowsily pushed buttons and squashed our donuts into a bag.

"It's not realistic to eliminate all sugar," says Meg, Health Coach for the Dr. Sears LEAN lifestyle and nutrition program. "Telling children that sugar is off-limits does them a disservice, because it's impossible to avoid sugar entirely. It's our job as parents to teach balance, to help children learn to use tools and make good choices."

sign-256533_960_720[1]Meg recommends Dr. Sears' "Traffic Light Eating" as one tool to teach our children. Dr. Sears describes food as falling into three colorful categories that help children make good choices.

"Green Light Foods" are "Go Foods" that provide energy and promote growth. Greed Foods can be eaten as much as we like and include: fruits and vegetables, eggs and yogurt, milk and cheese, nuts and seeds, lean meat and fish.

"Yellow Light Foods" are "Slow Down Foods" that can be enjoyed in limited qualities. Yellow Foods include: fatty meats, pasta and white bread, homemade baked goods.

"Red Light Foods" are the "Stop and Think Foods" that demand caution and a careful approach. Red Foods are the prepackaged, store-bought foods, desserts, sugared drinks, and foods with artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils.

Red Light Foods are all right once in a while, Meg explained, but we don't want to begin the habit of eating them regularly.

My Sunday morning donuts fall into the Red Light category, all right for an occasional treat, but I had acquired the regular donut habit, and my low energy levels showed it.

Meg references the Sears Wellness Institute for meal ideas and recipes that incorporate more Green Light Foods. The site teaches healthy eating habits and encourages healthy choices. Meg also recommends this site for meal ideas and recipes that use real foods in budget-friendly menus.

Sometimes I miss the delicate melting of glazed donut icing. Sometimes I still prowl the bakery shelves for cinnamon rolls and sugar cookies. More often now, I stop at the coolers of eggs and yogurt. I choose fruit, cottage cheese, and whole grain bread for making crunchy toast.

But the cashier still yawns over the conveyor belt and squashes my bread in the bag.

How have your eating habits changed? What strategies do you use to help your family make healthy choices?

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