Green = “Go” Foods

Everything I needed to learn about food choices, I learned in the first grade through a creepy E.T.-looking creature (but with pointy ears and a skinny tail) called “Juno”.

In my rural, northern New Jersey elementary school, part of our health curriculum from 1st through maybe 3rd grade (if my memory serves me right) was this fun program called Juno’s Journeys: Adventures in Health. Juno lived in the forest and by following his interactive workbooks, we students were taught basic health principles.

(I have been Googling Juno for days in preparation of this entry, and have come up with very little, but I assure you, the program did indeed exist and, if you are so inclined, you can buy used copies here.)

What stuck in my mind then and throughout my life, actually, has been the notion of Juno’s Red (“Stop”), Yellow (“Think”) and Green (“Go”) foods. It was a more exciting way of learning about nutrition than the lame food pyramid, that’s for sure! And today, his classification still rings true.

Juno encouraged us to make good choices and to eat a balanced, varied diet, composed mostly of “Go” foods, some “Think” foods and very few “Stop” foods.

Through his adventures in the forest, he taught us that “Go” foods were the best choices to make. These are things we typically think of as “healthy”–the foods our moms always put on our plate and made us eat before we could have dessert. This included basic “clean” foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy (in 1984 fat-free was probably still the subject of lab studies!). *Note to WW Core folks–this is, in essence, Core!

“Think” foods were things that had *some* redeeming nutritional qualities but should still be eaten in moderation, and with caution. This included things like nuts, pizza, peanut butter, pretzels, oatmeal raisin cookies and deli meats.

And “Stop” foods were pretty obvious even to our 7-year old brains. They were special occassion foods; the things we probably liked the most but that our parents probably rarely let us eat: candy, chocolate, sugary cereals, cheeseburgers, french fries, cake, ice cream, potato chips. The foods available 24/7 today. (No wonder today’s youth are battling obesity issues).

At the end of each lesson was a quiz, and even back then I remembered I scored well. I attribute this to Juno’s teachings on making good choices, but moreso because I grew up in a healthy home.

Sure, we were allowed sweet or salty snacks as treats on occassion, but things like soda and baked goods were only around for birthday parties.

The rest of the time, we ate healthy, balanced meals. Milk was an absolute must with dinner, and dessert was usually fruit–anything else was a novelty. While it was a valuable teaching tool, Juno’s Journeys just reinforced the good eating habits I was learning at home.

I hope to set an equally good example for my own children someday. Since my husband and I both eat pretty cleanly, I think we have a fighting chance! And I think Juno would be proud of me; despite my affinity for dark chocolate (which now would likey fit in the “Think” category, given its antioxidant benefits) I live a pretty clean, “Go”-filled life.

I eat “Think” foods in moderation and I’ve found ways to make even “Stop” foods healthier. For example, I make my own sweet potato “fries,” baked with healthy extra-virgin olive oil (or, in Rachael Ray-speak, EVOO). And when we grill hamburgers, they’re made with 96% lean ground beef and topped with a slice of cheddar soy. Can we say delish!?

I think you can guess what’s on the menu for our 4th of July BBQ.

How about you? Does anything stand out in your mind from your childhood with regards to how you learned about nutrition?

4 thoughts on “Green = “Go” Foods

  1. I remember Juno — I can attest that he did, indeed, exist!! Sadly, I’m not sure my parents paid attention to his meal plan, they were on the “eat anything and everything” diet. 🙂

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