We literally are what we eat.
As one health practitioner and friend says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” If we eat foods that are extensively processed, full of chemicals, and devoid of nutrients, we’ll feel just like the food we’re eating: tired, sick, and full of garbage.
Processed foods containing additives, preservatives, and chemical ingredients actually rob the body of nutrients. They impact the gut, which is essential to having a healthy, well-functioning immune system.
Nutrients from our children’s diet are the building blocks for their bones, skin, muscles, brain tissue, organs, and glands.
Children who eat nutrient-rich diets have fewer allergies, behavioral issues, mood disorders, chronic illness, depression, fatigue, and digestive troubles.
Food is medicine. It heals, it cures, and it prevents illness.
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, a good diet enables the Earth Element, which is responsible for digestion, to break down, transform, and transport nutrients to nourish each and every cell in the body.
Good food supports the Water Element, which is responsible for proper growth and development during childhood. When the Earth and Water Elements are healthy and balanced, the Metal Element is nourished, leading to a healthy immune system and resilience to infectious disease and illness.
Red-, Yellow-, and Green-Light Foods
In my clinic, I use a red-, yellow-, and green-light system to help kids choose healthy foods. It is especially useful for times when you’re not around to guide your kids. The focus of this system is on helping kids easily identify foods that fit within the pillars of a good diet and provide optimal nutrition.
Switching to green light foods takes time and isn’t done overnight. The ideal ratio is 80% green-light foods to 20% red-light foods, however this is an ideal to work toward over time. Take small steps and make simple switches. You’ll be amazed at how many green-light foods you can incorporate into your family’s diet.
Here’s a Breakdown of Red-, Yellow-, and Green-Light Foods
Green Light Foods
Green-light foods are the ideal foods we should have in our diets. They are often referred to as “real foods” and “whole foods.” Real foods are pure and haven’t been altered or sprayed with chemicals.
They don’t contain preservatives, so they tend to have a short shelf life. They’re also nutrient dense and especially good for promoting healing and supporting immunity. They tend to contain probiotics and enzymes to make foods more digestible and to support healthy gut function.
- Organic fruits and vegetables, especially greens
- Whole, soaked, leavened, or sourdough grains and bread products
- Unrefined, cold-pressed fats like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
- Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut
- Organic grass-fed, pasture raised meats
- Wild-caught seafood
- Traditional foods like homemade bone broth
Yellow Light Foods
Yellow-light foods are in the middle of the spectrum. They can be eaten sometimes, but not all the time, because they’re not as pure, whole, digestible, or nutrient dense as their green-light counterparts. Yellow-light foods are everywhere from the grocery store to the restaurant on the corner because they’re cheap and convenient.
Yellow-light foods aren’t inherently bad for you, but their quality has been compromised, often to increase production. Chemicals might also be used on or in the food to preserve shelf life or enhance taste or texture.
- Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains that haven’t been sprouted, leavened or soured
- Refined, conventional olive oils, coconut or other oils
- Organic, corn-fed meats
- Farmed fish
- Preserved foods
- Pasteurized fermented foods
Red Light Foods
Red-light foods typically are high in fat, salt, and sugar and come out of a package. Chemicals are added to the red-light foods to extend the shelf life and create a pleasing texture. They’re red light because we want our kids to STOP before they put it in their mouths! They contain questionable ingredients – things you wouldn’t cook with at home. The packaging on these products are tricky to make you think they’re healthy, but when you turn the package over you’ll find unpronounceable ingredients and food chemicals.
- White breads, crackers, cereals, bagels, etc.
- High fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, sugar
- Cereal, snack, and protein bars
- Soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oils
- Non-organic, low-fat, non-fat pasteurized dairy products – milk, yogurt, cheese
- Non-organic meats
- sodas, store-bought juices, sports drinks
- Unfermented soy products – soy milk, soy crackers, soy protein
Healthy Eating and Healthy Guts
Eating healthy, green-light foods contributes to a healthy gut with plenty of beneficial gut flora. Gut flora are the symbiotic or beneficial bacteria that live in our gut.
Gut flora are often referred to as probiotics and you have a few trillion living in your gut right now. Because gut flora play such an important role in our overall health, some scholars liken our gut flora to a “forgotten organ.”
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