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Eating healthy is a challenge for most people, so don’t be discouraged if it does not come easy to you. I wouldn’t need to write a blog about how to eat healthy if everyone knew what to do! I am going to give you some tips that you can take to the grocery store. Once you have a grasp on what to look for you won’t feel so lost in those isles.  

You will not read anything in this blog about what not to eat. Creating a “forbidden foods” list is not recommended as it will give you negative feelings about something good you are trying to do for yourself and or your family and for some people denying yourself too much can increase cravings for the foods you’re trying to avoid. Let’s dig in and make some sense of this Go Slow Whoa means for you. 

GO foods are lowest in fat and sugar, low in calories and great to eat anytime. Also referred to as nutrient dense foods or rich in nutrients and non-processed (nothing added or removed).  

  • Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables (with no added salt, sugar, or fat)  
  • Whole-grain bread, tortilla, pita; cereal (low sugar or no sugar), pasta; brown rice, wild rice; air-popped popcorn (no salt); baked tortilla chips 
  • Dairy products: Fat-free (skim, nonfat) or 1% milk; soy, almond, and rice milk, unsweetened; fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt or yogurt drinks; part-skim natural cheese, low-fat cottage cheese 

These three food groups above all provide carbohydrates (energy) 

  • Proteins: Beans (black, red, pinto), peas, and lentils with no- or low-salt added; seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) with no salt, sugar, or fat added; whole eggs, egg whites; fish and shellfish (grilled, broiled, baked), tuna (in water); chicken and turkey (no skin; grilled, broiled, baked); lean cuts of beef; extra-lean ground beef, lean cuts of pork; tofu 

Beans, peas, and lentils also provide carbohydrates 

  • Fats/spreads: Nonstick cooking spray; mustard 
  • Beverages: Water, sparkling water, unsweetened decaffeinated tea 


SLOW foods are higher in fat, added sugar, and calories. These should only be eaten slow sometimes/less often. Less nutrient dense, minimally processed (something has been added or removed). 

  • Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables made with vegetable oils; vegetables with added sugar or salt; baked French fries and hash browns. Fruits canned in syrup; fruits with sugar added; dried fruits with added sugar 
  • White (refined flour) bread, tortilla, pita; cereal made with refined grains and low-sugar, granola; pasta made with refined flour; white rice; pretzels, baked potato, chips 
  • 2% (reduced-fat) milk; fortified soy, almond, and rice milk (sweetened); fat-free or low-fat yogurt or yogurt drinks (sweetened); natural cheese (Swiss, cheddar); low-fat sour cream; non- or low-fat frozen yogurt 
  • Beans, peas, lentils made with vegetable oil; refried beans, hummus, falafel; seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) with added salt, sugar, or fat; nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios) with no salt, sugar, or fat added; eggs fried in vegetable oil; fish (baked, breaded), fish sticks; chicken nuggets (baked), ground chicken and turkey; lean hamburgers; lunch meats, low-fat hot dogs 
  • Vegetable oils (olive, canola, corn, soybean); jam, jelly, ketchup; salad dressings made with vegetable oils 
  • Unsweetened tea 


WHOA foods are highest in fat and added sugar and high in calories. These should only be eaten occasionally and in small portions. Also referred to as nutrient poor, calorie dense, and highly processed.  

  • Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables made with solid fats; fried, battered vegetables; fried potatoes, French fries, hash browns 
  • Fruits canned in heavy syrup; fruit roll-ups 
  • Croissants, biscuits, doughnuts, muffins; high-sugar cereals made with refined grains; instant soups with noodles; fried rice; potato chips, cookies, cakes, flavored popcorn 
  • Whole milk, milkshakes; whole-milk yogurt or yogurt drinks; processed cheese (American), cream cheese, cheese sauce; sour cream; ice cream, cheesecake, frozen yogurt 
  • Beans, peas, and lentils made with solid fats; baked beans; nuts with added salt, sugar, or fats; peanut butter with added salt, sugar, or fat; eggs fried in solid fats; fried fish and shellfish; fried chicken, fried chicken nuggets; regular hamburgers, ribs; bologna, salami; bacon, ham, hot dogs, beef jerky 
  • Solid fats (butter, margarine, shortening); gravy, mayonnaise, salad dressings made with solid fats 
  • Soft drinks (regular and diet), beverages with added sugar (sweetened tea, lemonade), sports drinks, fruit juice 


To increase your health and decrease your likelihood of disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and to feel better, think more clearly, have more energy, most of your meals should include foods from the GO list. Again, no foods are off limits, you are an adult, and you can eat whatever you want but to function and feel your best, this is a great place to start.


Amber C., Senior Director at the Buena Vista YMCA Express

Category: Health & Wellness
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Meet Amber...

I got certified to become a personal trainer in 2014 after struggling with my weight for over a decade. I had developed a passion for helping others take charge of their health and knew the Y is where is wanted to do that. I've been training at the Armbrust YMCA ever since! Over the years I have added more certifications to my tool bag including a second PT certification, Small Group Fitness, Fitness Nutrition, and some of my favorite YMCA programs including Y Weight Loss, and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. As a Health and Wellness Director I am looking forward to many more years of cultivating health and physical activity in our community! 

To connect with Amber please email: