Commentary: A proposed new food guide: Why pyramids should stop at traffic lights

Norman J. Temple, Lesley T. Bourne

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

5 Citations (Scopus)


Many food guides are used around the world, Bourne, PhD with most based on a graphical design to indicate how much of each food group should be eaten. However, the most recent versions of the food guides used in the United States (MyPyramid) and Canada (Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide) have moved away from using a graphical design. In this article, we evaluate the design of these various food guides and describe an alternative design for a food guide based on a traffic lights approach. Foods are classed as green (eat freely based on recommended amounts), amber (eat in limited amounts), and red (eat little or none). The food guide is accompanied by a set of simple rules for selecting an appropriate diet. This design has several advantages over conventional designs. In particular, the proposed design more closely reflects the actual composition of foods, namely that foods within each food group tend to fall into three distinct groups based on nutritional composition, a point which is much less clear with conventional food guide designs. The simplicity of the design may make it especially valuable in developing countries and among communities where educational standards are poor. Only a limited amount of research has been conducted on traffic lights food guides, mainly for its use in the treatment of childhood obesity. Further research is therefore required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-487
Number of pages3
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep. 2010


  • Dietary guidelines
  • Food
  • Health education
  • Nutrition


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