Learn how to say GO, SLOW or WHOA to foods

I shall echo the sentiment of Robert Fulghum: “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” Except I would have to say I learned it in preschool, including how to share, play fair, say I’m sorry, flush and live a balanced life such as “work some” and then “play some.”

And a balanced life is exactly what we teach our preschoolers as part of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s All 4 Kids childhood obesity prevention program. We teach them at an early age how to make healthy food choices. So, in case you missed out on preschool or you just can’t remember what you learned, here is a preschool nutritional tip even you might want to consider trying out.

It comes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s WeCan program, and it’s called GO, SLOW and WHOA foods. It’s a great way to balance your food choices so that you can eat healthily without getting bored or taking extreme measures. Making a decision to eat only “good” foods or never to eat “bad” foods is almost ridiculous. GO, SLOW and WHOA foods allow you to enjoy all kinds of food.

Here’s how it works: Foods, especially snacks, are categorized into either a GO, SLOW or WHOA food. GO foods are foods that can be eaten almost any time. They are the healthiest choice. Examples include fruits, vegetables, and skim milk. SLOW foods are foods that can be eaten sometimes but not every day. Maybe a few times a week is good. These include pizza, pancakes and juice. Although juice is healthy and has lots of vitamins and minerals, it also has a lot of sugar and can cause weight gain if consumed in large quantities. Finally, there are WHOA foods. These foods should make you say exactly that — WHOA! WHOA foods are the least healthy and the most likely to cause weight problems, especially if eaten all the time. That’s why WHOA foods should be eaten only once in a while. Cookies, candy, cake and soda are all examples of WHOA foods.

It might seem overly simplistic, but it is a terrific way to eat healthily and still enjoy foods you like. When a preschooler in our program goes home and tells her mom that there is no GO food in her lunch, Mom may find herself pleasantly surprised to learn that her child is asking for a piece of fruit or a carrot to make the lunch complete. Or when a child is given a cookie as a snack, he may say, “I already had one today and I am supposed to only eat these once in a while.” These are just a few stories we hear from parents about how their children have learned valuable lessons about healthy eating.

So which GO, SLOW and WHOA foods might be lingering in your kitchen? I suggest you put the GO foods out and make them visible and easily accessible. Cut up some fruits and vegetables and make them readily available. WHOA foods, on the other hand, should be stashed away … you know, out of sight, out of mind. It’s one simple way to make eating healthily less of a chore. For more information on how foods are categorized, just Google “WeCan Whoa, Slow and Go Tip Sheet.” Or better yet, Google “Pack It Up UNR YouTube video” and view our hip-hop song about GO, SLOW and WHOA foods. Soon you will find yourself rapping to the beat of “pretzels, pears and oranges are just so cool, yeah, GO foods you can eat ’em after school.”

Annie Lindsay is an assistant professor and exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She conducts research and programming in adult fitness, physical activity, body image and childhood obesity prevention. Contact her at lindsaya@unce.unr.edu.

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