Hey Angels and Alphas,
There are countless ways you can decide what you’re going to add to your plate – you can read nutrition labels, count calories, follow point systems, or stick to a strict diet that tells you exactly what and when to eat.
And the “stoplight food” system is a great option for those who want to add more healthy foods and veggies to their diet without much hassle.
The stoplight system is essentially a visual guide for the consumers that want to make good food choices.
- Just like in traffic, green means go. Those are foods you should eat consistently and regularly.
- Yellow foods are sometimes foods.
- Red foods should be limited or just avoided altogether.
That being said, we all know there are no universal rules for what foods you should include in your diet. For example, many dietary programs consider green foods to be the most nutrient-rich such as veggies and fruits. Yellow foods tend to have a bit more fat such as granola bars and dried fruits. Red foods are basically chips, donuts, junk foods and more.
However, other stoplight systems are usually tailored toward the calorie density of certain foods. That means that high-fat foods could be slapped with a red or yellow label regardless of whether it’s a healthy source of fat.
Red: Nuts, olive oil, chia seeds
Yellow: Lean protein, beans, avocado
Green: Fruits, veggies, oatmeal, quinoa, berries
The countless benefits of spotlight foods!
First of all, let’s examine the benefits of the stoplight system as a whole.
For one, it essentially boils down nutrients into a very easy-to-understand format. And when diets get simple, they become sustainable, and translate into real life changes.
You have some studies out there have shown us that the stoplight system can instantly change consumer behavior and reduce the purchases of foods labeled “red” while increasing the purchases of green foods. Sometimes, this could mean reducing intakes of added sugar, saturated fat, even sodium.
One study in PLOS ONE looked at over 20,000 Canadian people and found that the stoplight system reduced calorie consumption by almost 5 percent, sodium by 6 percent, and total fat by a whopping 13 percent.
Another study used the stoplight system to “code” different beverages based on sugar contents. Monthly sales of drinks labeled “red” dropped by almost 20 percent while green beverages (e.g. low-fat milk, water, tea) rose from 12 to up to 38 percent! That’s HUGE!
Whenever the stoplight system is applied, people start buying fewer red foods and more green ones.
This green-yellow-red labeling is super easy to understand as opposed to the alternative where you have to wade through all the claims on the front of the package and spend some time decoding all the ingredients yourself. This system also means you’ll be much less likely to be swayed by marketing terms such as low-carb, keto-friendly, natural, or organic.
However, there are some drawbacks…
As with countless other diets and dietary approaches, there are drawbacks to this stoplight method. Namely, you have to basically understand exactly which criteria the stoplight system you’re using is based on… and the criteria that make sense for you, your diet, and your goals.
Each stoplight system has a different criterion for all the food categories. This can be sometimes confusing when you’re trying to choose foods based on a mix of stoplight systems.
And a certain system may not even meet your personal nutrition needs, too. For instance, if you’re a vegan athlete, you can really use seeds and nuts to then meet your nutrient needs. But when you see them labeled “red,” you might think you should avoid them (when foods like these can be super useful for you.)
This can further reinforce the idea that some generally good foods can be labeled bad, affecting how you view food.
And when you consume something labeled red, you will think you’ve done something bad… just because you wanted a handful of almonds? And this will affect how you look at foods in the future, even long after you’ve stopped paying attention to the green, yellow, and red… not to mention, past research has indicated that guilt over food can actually promote more weight gain!
Bringing it all together…
The stoplight food method can be an effective way to simply your dietary approach, and it’s something definitely worth considering. As with any weight loss and diet tool, you have to maintain your awareness of your physical and mental health… not to mention your relationship with food.