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Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Quick Guide to Healthy Eating

Article Translations: (Spanish)

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:


(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.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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