Traffic light system

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The Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines use a ‘traffic light system’ to categorise foods and drinks into three groups based on their nutritional value.

Traffic lights with red, green and amber lit up

GREEN (Best choices)

Foods and drinks in the GREEN category are the healthiest choices. They are usually:

  • good sources of important nutrients
  • lower in saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt
  • lower in energy (kilojoules)
  • higher in fibre.

Wherever foods and drinks are offered (e.g. retail outlets, vending machines and catering), at least 50% of choices should be from the GREEN category.

Water is also an important part of the GREEN category and should always be readily available.

Some GREEN foods and drinks are even healthier than others. For example, wholegrain and white bread are both in the GREEN category, but wholegrain bread is higher in fibre and is a healthier choice.

For a summary of foods and drinks in the GREEN category refer to the Common foods and drinks classification guide, in the Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide, or find them on FoodChecker.

GREEN foods and drinks should always be available and they should be promoted as the best choices. Click here for more information on promoting healthier choices.


AMBER (Choose carefully)

AMBER foods and drinks should be selected carefully and should only be eaten in moderation.

Although AMBER items may provide some good nutrients they can:

  • be high in energy (kilojoules)
  • contain saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt.

AMBER foods and drinks may be offered, but should not dominate. They should not be promoted over GREEN choices.

AMBER options may be healthier varieties of items that are usually in the RED category. For example, sugar-sweetened soft drinks are RED. Diet soft drinks contain less energy and are AMBER.

Use the Common foods and drinks classification guide (Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide) to help you identify healthier AMBER choices.

To encourage people to choose AMBER foods and drinks carefully you can:

  • reduce the amount and variety of AMBER foods and drinks offered
  • provide AMBER items in smaller serve sizes
  • provide healthier choices within the AMBER category.


RED (Limit)

Foods and drinks in the RED category are not essential and should be limited.

In general RED choices are:

  • high in energy (kilojoules)
  • high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt
  • low in important nutrients such as fibre.

RED foods and drinks should be consumed rarely and only in small amounts. In retail outlets and vending machines, no more than 20% of foods and drinks should be from the RED category.

RED foods and drinks should not be provided in workplace catering.

In addition, health services following the Policy directive should provide no RED drinks in vending and in-house managed retail outlets or patient menus that staff or visitors can order from.

Sugar-sweetened drinks, deep-fried foods and confectionery are examples of RED choices.

To encourage people to limit RED foods and drinks you can:

  • limit the range of RED choices offered
  • reduce the supply of RED choices in all situations
  • offer the smallest portion available. Jumbo sizes of RED foods and drinks should be avoided.


For more information please phone 1300 22 52 88 or email

Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this document show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation. Copyright © State of Victoria 2016

Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.

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