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Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Looking for an easy way to eat healthier? The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) suggests we use Go, Slow, and Whoa as a way to think about food.

Think of the healthiest foods as "go" foods. These are foods like steamed or raw veggies and skim or low-fat milk that are good to eat almost anytime.

Foods that are OK to eat sometimes are "slow" foods. Foods like hamburgers or pancakes aren't off limits — but they shouldn't be eaten every day. At most, you'll want to eat these foods just a couple of times a week.

Some foods should make you stop, think, and say, "Whoa! Should I eat that?" These foods are the least healthy. They are the most likely to cause weight problems, especially if a person eats them all the time. "Whoa!" foods are once-in-a-while foods, like French fries or ice cream.

Go Foods

Eat these almost anytime:

Vegetables

  • Almost all fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables without added fat (such as butter) or sauces

Fruits

  • All fresh and frozen fruits
  • Canned fruits packed in juice

Breads and Cereals

  • Whole-grain breads, pitas, and tortillas
  • Whole-grain pasta, brown rice
  • Hot and cold unsweetened whole-grain breakfast cereals

 Milk and Milk Products

  • Skim and 1% milk
  • Fat-free and low-fat yogurt
  • Part-skim, reduced-fat, and fat-free cheese
  • Low-fat and fat-free cottage cheese

Meats and Other Sources of Protein

  • Beef and pork that has the fat cut off before cooking
  • Extra-lean ground beef
  • Chicken and turkey without skin
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Fish and shellfish that's been baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled
  • Beans, split peas, and lentils
  • Tofu
  • Egg whites and substitutes

Sweets and Snacks

  • Sweets and snacks are never "go" foods. Even though some sweets and snacks are lower in fat and calories, people should limit the amount of sweets and snacks they eat so they don't take in more calories than their bodies need.

Spreads and Condiments

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Fat-free creamy salad dressing
  • Fat-free mayonnaise
  • Fat-free sour cream
  • Vinegar

Drinks

  • Water
  • Fat-free and 1% milk
  • Diet soda
  • Diet and unsweetened iced teas and lemonade

Slow Foods

Eat these sometimes:

Vegetables

  • All vegetables in added fat and sauces
  • Oven-baked fries
  • Avocados

Fruits

  • 100% fruit juice
  • Fruits canned in light syrup
  • Dried fruits

Breads and Cereals

  • White bread and pasta that's not whole grain
  • Taco shells
  • French toast, waffles, and pancakes
  • Biscuits
  • Granola

Milk and Milk Products

  • 2% milk
  • Processed cheese spreads

Meats and Other Sources of Protein

  • Lean ground beef
  • Broiled hamburgers
  • Chicken and turkey with the skin
  • Tuna canned in oil
  • Ham
  • Low-fat hot dogs
  • Canadian bacon
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Whole eggs cooked without added fat, such as boiled or poached

Sweets and Snacks

  • Ice milk bars
  • Frozen fruit-juice bars
  • Low-fat frozen yogurt
  • Low-fat ice cream
  • Fig bars
  • Ginger snaps
  • Baked chips
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn
  • Pretzels

Spreads and Condiments

  • Vegetable oil*
  • Olive oil*
  • Oil-based salad dressing*
  • Low-fat creamy salad dressing
  • Low-fat mayonnaise
  • Low-fat sour cream
  • Soft margarine

Drinks

  • 2% milk
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Sports drinks

Whoa Foods

Eat these once in a while:

Vegetables

  • Any vegetable fried in oil, such as French fries or hash browns

Fruits

  • Fruits canned in heavy syrup

Breads and Cereals

  • Doughnuts, muffins, croissants, and sweet rolls
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals
  • Crackers that have hydrogenated oils (trans fats)

Milk and Milk Products

  • Whole milk
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Yogurt made from whole milk

Meats and Other Sources of Protein

  • Beef and pork that hasn't had the fat cut off before cooking
  • Fried hamburgers
  • Fried chicken
  • Bacon
  • Fried fish and shellfish
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Hot dogs
  • Lunch meats
  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Ribs
  • Whole eggs cooked with added fat, such as butter, fat, or oil

Sweets and Snacks

  • Cookies, cakes, and pies
  • Cheesecake
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate candy
  • Chips
  • Buttered microwave popcorn

Spreads and Condiments

  • Butter
  • Stick margarine
  • Lard
  • Salt pork
  • Gravy
  • Regular creamy salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tartar sauce
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese sauce
  • Cream cheese
  • Cream cheese dips

Drinks

  • Whole milk
  • Regular soda
  • Sweetened iced teas and lemonade
  • Fruit drinks with less than 100% fruit juice

Source: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

*Vegetable and olive oils that have no saturated or trans fats and can be eaten daily, but in limited portions to meet daily calorie needs.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018