Would Supermarket Traffic Lights Encourage Healthier Choices?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • A new study done at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that if supermarkets were willing to use "color-coded labels" and re-arrange products and aisle offerings, then consumers might have an easier time making healthier food choices. You think??


    The study used green to signify "healthy and eat abundantly," yellow to "provoke thought" about how much you might want of this product or how many times a week you might eat it, and of course, red was used to suggest "stop-think about this purchase because it is not a healthy product." According to the study when "red" was used to color code sugary beverages, participants reduced the urge to grab these items irreverently and used much more thought - in many cases, purchases went down. "Green drinks" and other food products labeled with a green color code provoked an increase in purchases over time. In the second phase of the study, green food items were placed at "eye level" as well. Green labeled food item sales went down a bit, but drink purchases increased. For more on this study go to http://tinyurl.com/73eyggj.

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    Well, I discovered almost 25 years ago as a Health Coach, that using a "red light-yellow light-green light" system to correspond to "Yes, Maybe So, No" food group shopping and eating tactical approach - kids AND adults really had clarity with regards to healthy eating principles. The approach is a big part of my book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families and it works like this:


    There are six basic food categories: Fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates (breads, etc.), dairy, and fats. When you shop and when you eat, your "green or yes foods" are fruits and vegetables. Eat them abundantly and include them at meals and snack time. Proteins, break-like carbohydrates (including peas, corn and potatoes from the vegetable food group), dairy and fats all need to be consumed daily, but you need to think "yellow color" meaning proceed with caution. Every child and adult has a certain number of servings/day and a certain frequency of servings/day they need from these four food groups, depending on weight goals or just healthy living. We also need the yellow light to prod us to choose the superstar choices from each of these food groups. When it comes to proteins for example, superstar choices include white skinless meats, very lean red meats (occasionally), beans and legumes (that includes nuts), fish and eggs and egg whites. Still even though this list includes the healthiest options, you still need to use portion control and know how much protein your body needs daily. Same for dairy (choose mostly low fat, preferably fat free), and fats (zero trans fats, very limited saturated fats, choose mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats). I think you can guess the "red foods" which are processed foods, fast foods, treats, and sugary drinks, as well as any food not classified as a "superstar."


    Play games with your kids as you teach them the red light green light game, my way, and you will learn along the way too. use this guide to help you choose the healthiest foods and let your kids help to prepare them.  You can even create a simple "6 food group" check list in the form of a food diary graph, and you'll have a daily tracking system so you make sure you are aware of what you and your kids are eating.


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    Let me know what you think!!

Published On: February 02, 2012