The Food Health Traffic Light system

When you’re first thinking of changing your lifestyle and go through a long list of foods that are not health promoting – it can seem pretty overwhelming. We offer this list as a guideline that we’ve used with patients, with the essence being: get the majority of what you eat from plant based sources.


Red - stop
  • Fried animal foods
  • Eggs
  • Dairy: (inc. low fat): cow’s milk, yoghurt, cheese
  • Meat: including fish and chicken
  • All added fats and oils inc. butter, margarine, coconut, olive oil
  • Vegan cheeses, coconut cream
  • Fizzy and diet drinks
Yellow - limit
  • High fat foods
  • Fake meats
  • Tempeh / tofu
  • Avocado, olives, coconut cream
  • Nuts and seeds (flaxseed ok)
  • Alcohol, coffee, fruit juice
  • Carbonated water
  • Plant-based milks without added oil
  • Highly refined flours
  • Dried fruits
Green - what to eat!
  • Starches, complex carbohydrates
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes: beans, peas
  • Spices and herbs
  • Vitamin B12
  • Omega 3 from flaxseed, or chia seed

As soon as we discuss the above chart, we get lots of questions:
How much do I have to stick to the diet to get results?
How much do I have to change to lose weight?
What will I eat???

Green category foods – What foods are the most health-promoting?

We’ve put in bold the foods that we think form the basic shopping list.

STARCHES (COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES)

STARCHY VEGGIES (TUBERS)

Kumara (sweet potato), Parsnips, Potatoes, Taro, Yams, Squash (pumpkin)

WHOLE GRAINS

Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn – including popcorn, Millet, Oats and oatmeal, Quinoa, Ricebrown, coloured and wild, Rye, Sorghum, Teff, Triticale, Wheat – including Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farro, Kamut, Spelt, and forms like: Bulgur, Cracked, and Wheatberries.

LEGUMES

  • Beans: Black, Pinto, Garbanzo (Chickpeas), Lima, Soy.
  • Lentils: Green, Brown, Red eyed.
  • Peas: Split green, Split yellow, Black-eyed.
NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES

GREEN LEAFY

Bokchoy, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Collard greens, Kale/Cavolo nero, Lettuce, Silverbeet, Spinach, Watercress (puha).

BULBS

Artichokes, Fennel, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Shallots, Spring (green) onions.

FLOWERS

Broccoli, Cauliflower.

FUNGI

White button mushrooms, Shiitake, Portobello/Crimini.

ROOTS

Beetroot, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Swedes, Turnips.

SEEDS

Beans, Peas, Sweet corn.

STEMS

Asparagus, Celery, Kohlrabi, Rhubarb.

FRUITS

CITRUS

Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Orange, Tangerine.

NON-CITRUS

Apple, Banana, Blackberries, Capsicum, Chilli peppers, Chokos, Clementine, Cherries, Courgettes (Zucchini) Cucumber, Eggplant, Feijoa, Grapes, Guava, Kiwifruit, Mango, Nectarine, Okra, Pear, Passionfruit, Pineapple, Plum, Pomegranate, Peach, Raspberry, Rockmelon (Cantaloupe), Tomatoes, Watermelon.

VITAMIN B12

Easiest is to take 2500mcg once a week, either cyano or methyl cobalamin – it doesn’t matter too much. See Intro Lesson 5 for more detail.

HERBS, SPICES AND SAUCES

HERBS AND SPICES

Allspice, Basil, Bayleaf, Cajun mix, Caper, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne, Chives, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Mint, Mustard, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Pepper, Peppermint, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Sumac, Tarragon, Thyme, Vanilla, Wasabi – and many more.

SAUCES

Balsamic vinegar, Barbecue, Chilli sauces, Mustard, Nutritional yeast (pre-made or dry), Soy, Tamari soy, Worcestershire.

SUPPLEMENTS

Omega 3 – Leafy green vegetables, or 1 tablespoon daily flaxseed or chia seed.

Iodine – NZ has slightly low levels of iodine in the soil, can supplement this through iodised salt (which should provide enough). If you’re excluding iodised salt, have occasional bit of Nori seaweed. Note: Kelp is very high in iodine and small amounts provide too much. Iodine is added to breads in NZ. The ministry of health in NZ recommends folate and iodine in pregnancy, which can be supplemented if you’re concerned.

If you’re considering vitamin D (which you can make from sunlight) in supplement form you should discuss this with your doctor, and get an size and age-appropriate dose. It is fat-soluble so you can take too much, unlike vitamin B-12.

Download the information on the traffic light system (printer friendly PDF)