A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop as part of my food service placement that was aimed at increasing the understanding of the nutrition traffic light system and how to correctly classify various foods/meals. It was a very interesting and beneficial day, as I gained some valuable knowledge into the process of classifying foods and beverages according to this system.
So firstly, what is the traffic light system (or TLS)?
According to Nutrition Australia, it is a way “to help you make healthier choices by classifying foods according to their nutritional value”.
As a general guide:
- Red is a less healthy choice
- Amber is an OK choice and
- Green is the healthiest choice
Naturally, we want to aim for as many green foods/meals as possible, as they tend to be higher in nutrients and fibre, and are lower in saturated fats, sugar, sodium and kilojoules.
You may have seen a change in packaging of some items which now don the green, amber or red symbol for total fat, saturated fat, sugars and sodium. This idea is also being extended to some food outlets, hospitals and school canteens with a broader overall categorisation (i.e., an overall meal or meal item is classified as red, amber or green).
The ‘Green Light, Eat Right’ program has been taken on by Nutrition Australia, and is working its way through Melbourne’s CBD, involving numerous food outlets to not only allow for healthier choices to be made by customers, but to also improve the nutritional value of their menus.
Something I found out from this day that I think is great for any food or catering business, hospital, canteen etc. is this service is FREE! Contact the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (who are part of Nutrition Australia’s Victoria Division) and they will work with you and your current menu to categorise it into appropriate categories. Or, if you want to have a go yourself, these guidelines are the most up-to-date to use and have all the information you’ll need. Additionally, I found classifying mixed meals (e.g. stews, lasagna etc.) quite difficult to categorise accurately, so using this document made it much easier!
Another handy tool is to download the Traffic Light Food Tracker app (and it’s FREE!), so when you’re next at the supermarket, you can simply put in the total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium values as per 100g and work out which category they fall into.
Hopefully the TLS will be seen in many more food outlets, hospitals, canteens and supermarkets, so that healthier food choices are more readily available and easier for you to choose.