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Parent Tips:  Making Healthier Food Choices

NIH and the NHLBI recognize that getting children to adopt healthy food habits at a young age can help them maintain healthy eating habits throughout life.

As a parent, you want to give your family the best food you can. Serving healthier foods in the appropriate servings per food group and calorie level is one of the best ways to ensure that your children are getting proper nutrition without eating too many calories. The simple tips provided here can help you plan and prepare meals and snacks to help your family get the most out of the calories they consume.

What Is a "Healthy" Diet?

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans describes a healthy eating plan as one that:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars
  • Stays within your calorie needs

GO, SLOW, and WHOA Foods

Focus on Food Choices

GO foods are the lowest in fat and added sugar. They also are "nutrient dense" (which means they are a much better source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to health) and relatively low in calories. Enjoy GO foods almost any time. Examples of GO foods are fruits (fresh, frozen, or canned in juice), vegetables (fresh, frozen without added fat, canned without added sodium), whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, egg whites, or egg substitute.

SLOW foods are higher in fat, added sugar, and/or calories than GO foods SLOW foods include vegetables with added fat, white refined bread flour, low-fat mayonnaise, and 2 percent low-fat milk. Have SLOW foods sometimes or less often.

WHOA foods are the highest in fat and/or added sugar. They are "calorie dense" (which means a small portion is relatively high in calories) and may be low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as well. Have WHOA foods only once in a while or on special occasions. And, when you do have them, have small portions Examples of WHOA foods are whole milk, cheese, fried potatoes, croissants, muffins, butter, and creamy salad dressing.