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 think about foods in terms of Go, Slow, or Whoa.

    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 and 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.

    Printable Chart

    Here's a chart of Go, Slow, and Whoa foods. You can print this as your guide to learning what you can eat when:


    Food GroupGOSLOWWHOA
    (Almost Anytime) (Sometimes) (Once in a While)
    Vegetables Almost all fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables without added fat (such as butter) or sauces All vegetables in added fat and sauces Any vegetable fried in oil, such as French fries or hash browns
    Oven-baked fries
    Fruits All fresh and frozen fruits 100% fruit juice Fruits canned in heavy syrup
    Canned fruits packed in juice Fruits canned in light syrup
    Dried fruits
    Breads and Cereals Whole-grain breads, pitas, and tortillas White bread and pasta that's not whole grain Doughnuts, muffins, croissants, and sweet rolls
    Whole-grain pasta, brown rice Taco shells Sweetened breakfast cereals
    Hot and cold unsweetened whole-grain breakfast cereals French toast, waffles, and pancakes Crackers that have hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
    Milk and Milk Products Skim and 1% milk 2% milk Whole milk
    Fat-free and low-fat yogurt Processed cheese spreads Full-fat cheese
    Part-skim, reduced-fat, and fat-free cheese Cream cheese
    Low-fat and fat-free cottage cheese Yogurt made from whole milk
    Meats and Other Sources of Protein Beef and pork that has been trimmed of its fat Lean ground beef Beef and pork that hasn't been trimmed of its fat
    Extra-lean ground beef Broiled hamburgers Fried hamburgers
    Chicken and turkey without skin Chicken and turkey with the skin Fried chicken
    Tuna canned in water Tuna canned in oil Bacon
    Fish and shellfish that's been baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled Ham Fried fish and shellfish
    Beans, split peas, and lentils Low-fat hot dogs Chicken nuggets
    Tofu Canadian bacon Hot dogs
    Egg whites and substitutes Peanut butter Lunch meats
    Nuts Sausage
    Whole eggs cooked without added fat Ribs
    Whole eggs cooked with added fat
    Sweets and Snacks*   Ice milk bars Cookies, cakes, and pies
      Frozen fruit-juice bars Cheesecake
      Low-fat frozen yogurt Ice cream
      Low-fat ice cream Chocolate candy
      Fig bars Chips
      Ginger snaps Buttered microwave popcorn
      Baked chips
      Low-fat microwave popcorn
    Butter, Ketchup, and Other Sauces and Condiments Ketchup Vegetable oil** Butter
    Mustard Olive oil** Stick margarine
    Fat-free creamy salad dressing Oil-based salad dressing** Lard
    Fat-free mayonnaise Low-fat creamy salad dressing Salt pork
    Fat-free sour cream Low-fat mayonnaise Gravy
    Vinegar Low-fat sour cream Regular creamy salad dressing
    Soft margarine Mayonnaise
    Tartar sauce
    Sour cream
    Cheese sauce
    Cream sauce
    Cream cheese dips
    Drinks Water 2% milk Whole milk
    Fat-free and 1% milk 100% fruit juice Regular soda
    Diet soda Sports drinks Sweetened iced teas and lemonade
    Diet and unsweetened 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

    *Though some of the foods in this row are lower in fat and calories, all sweets and snacks need to be limited in order to not exceed daily calorie requirements.

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

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2022 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com