Traffic Light Eating was one of the first things I learned about fueling my body well. It's simple and intuitive. My four-year-old can tell you which foods he should be eating a lot of and which foods he needs to "stop and think about" (although, now that I've told you that he will probably forget if you ask him).
There's a lot of disparate information around who came up with the idea and when but the concept is simple: there are only three food groups.
Green Light Foods:
Green light foods are grown in a field, not made in a factory. These foods are should be eaten multiple times a day. They are the first thing you eat and ideally, they take up about half of the real estate on your plate. They are typically low in calories but high in nutritional value (as demonstrated by their naturally vibrant colors). Fruit is an excellent source of fiber and vitamins and minerals but it also contains sugar which can sometimes trigger your craving for other, not-so-natural, sugar sources (i.e. candy, pop, and cookies). My general rule is for every fruit you eat, you should also eat two servings of vegetables. The way a Green Light food is prepared makes a difference: Brussels sprouts are a delicious Green Light option. Brussels sprouts that are covered in simple syrup and served with cranberries and pecans are decidedly in the Red Light category. Also, and I'm going to offend some people here, juice is not a Green Light food. An occasional detox is fine, but juicing removes the fiber from food and your liver has to work overtime to keep up with the amount of fructose (sugar) that is now floating around in your system.
Yellow Light Foods:
This group includes whole grains, rice, beans, lean proteins like poultry and fish, eggs, and dairy products. Protein is an essential part of a harmonious diet (see what I did there? ;) ), required for building and repairing muscle and organ tissue, and strengthening your bones. You need Yellow Light foods every day, but you don't need them in the same quantity as Green Light foods. You probably wouldn't have three servings of grilled chicken at dinner - but you might have a small salad, asparagus, and green beans. Again, preparation makes a difference. Grilled chicken is a Yellow Light food, fried chicken is not.
Red Light Foods:
The Red Light category includes everything else. These foods are highly processed, full of ingredients you can't pronounce. They are high in calories, the wrong kind of fat, and sugar; and low in vitamins minerals and fiber. I'm not saying these foods are intrinsically bad - food has no moral value in my opinion - but you know how they make you feel, right? You know that eating all the cake and drinking all the wine makes you feel gross the next day, right? It is 100% ok to have the cake or the wine and enjoy the experience, but if you're doing this every day, you're sacrificing long-term gains for a short-term fix - and you want more out of life than that.
Of course there are nuances within each group and individual foods will have specific benefits or downfalls (especially according to the internet) but for someone who is just venturing into making healthy choices, this is a great way to get started.
Email me! Does this seem like something that might work in your family? I'd love to hear about how you implement it!