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

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)
VegetablesAlmost all fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables without added fat (such as butter) or saucesAll vegetables in added fat and saucesAny vegetable fried in oil, such as French fries or hash browns
Oven-baked fries
FruitsAll fresh and frozen fruits100% fruit juiceFruits canned in heavy syrup
Canned fruits packed in juiceFruits canned in light syrup
Dried fruits
Breads and CerealsWhole-grain breads, pitas, and tortillasWhite bread and pasta that's not whole grainDoughnuts, muffins, croissants, and sweet rolls
Whole-grain pasta, brown riceTaco shellsSweetened breakfast cereals
Hot and cold unsweetened whole-grain breakfast cerealsFrench toast, waffles, and pancakesCrackers that have hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
Milk and Milk ProductsSkim and 1% milk2% milkWhole milk
Fat-free and low-fat yogurtProcessed cheese spreadsFull-fat cheese
Part-skim, reduced-fat, and fat-free cheeseCream cheese
Low-fat and fat-free cottage cheeseYogurt made from whole milk
Meats and Other Sources of ProteinBeef and pork that has been trimmed of its fatLean ground beefBeef and pork that hasn't been trimmed of its fat
Extra-lean ground beefBroiled hamburgersFried hamburgers
Chicken and turkey without skinChicken and turkey with the skinFried chicken
Tuna canned in waterTuna canned in oilBacon
Fish and shellfish that's been baked, broiled, steamed, or grilledHamFried fish and shellfish
Beans, split peas, and lentilsLow-fat hot dogsChicken nuggets
TofuCanadian baconHot dogs
Egg whites and substitutesPeanut butterLunch meats
Whole eggs cooked without added fatRibs
Whole eggs cooked with added fat
Sweets and Snacks* Ice milk barsCookies, cakes, and pies
 Frozen fruit-juice barsCheesecake
 Low-fat frozen yogurtIce cream
 Low-fat ice creamChocolate candy
 Fig barsChips
 Ginger snapsButtered microwave popcorn
 Baked chips
 Low-fat microwave popcorn
Butter, Ketchup, and Other Sauces and CondimentsKetchupVegetable oil**Butter
MustardOlive oil**Stick margarine
Fat-free creamy salad dressingOil-based salad dressing**Lard
Fat-free mayonnaiseLow-fat creamy salad dressingSalt pork
Fat-free sour creamLow-fat mayonnaiseGravy
VinegarLow-fat sour creamRegular creamy salad dressing
Soft margarineMayonnaise
Tartar sauce
Sour cream
Cheese sauce
Cream sauce
Cream cheese dips
DrinksWater2% milkWhole milk
Fat-free and 1% milk100% fruit juiceRegular soda
Diet sodaSports drinksSweetened iced teas and lemonade
Diet and unsweetened iced teas and lemonadeFruit 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.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: 14-05-2014

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