These nutrition codes are designed to make it easier to identify the healthiest food choices. You will see these labels on foods in the dining halls, but can also apply this same concept at home or when eating at restaurants. The idea is to choose more foods that are the most nutritious, labeled green, and choose less foods that are labeled yellow and red. These foods labeled green have consistently shown to improve energy, endurance, and strength when consumed daily. This means the majority of your diet should be from the green labeled foods. The yellow and red labeled foods can be in your diet in moderation or eliminated, but they are optional. Here’s what you need to know about understand these nutrition codes.
Green labeled foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. Aim for about 80-90% of your diet to be from these foods. Some days your diet may look like about 85% green labeled foods, other days may look like 50%. Find balance and do the best you can with the resources that you have access to.
You can eat unlimited fruits and vegetables. These are not foods that we need to portion or limit in any way. They are nutrient dense, providing us with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
We can balance in yellow and red labeled foods, but when more of our diet is red than green is when we start to see health problems, decreased performance, and weight gain.
There are some yellow labeled foods that are fine to consume in moderation. Foods like bread, cereals, granola bars, olive oil, pasta. These are all processed foods that you can certainly include in your diet, in addition to whole foods. Look for high fiber and low added sugar options.
The most important piece to understand is that we need to be choosing whole foods as much as we can. These are nutrient packed and the least processed. Secondly we should be including as many plant sources that we can, for the same reason.
Take a look at the Tips For A Healthy Plate factsheet for more examples of foods.