Stoplight Healthy Living

A health promotion program created for people with IDD that YOU can deliver!

How can adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) make healthy choices if they have never had information presented in an easy-to-understand way?  The Kansas Disability and Health Program created Stoplight Healthy Living to provide health information about nutrition and physical activity through a plain language format in an enjoyable environment for group learning. 

What Is Stoplight Healthy Living?

Stoplight Healthy Living is a program to promote healthy choices that is fun to learn and easy to follow.

It provides information about:

  • choosing healthy food and drinks
  • increasing physical activity

to help adults with IDD be as healthy as they can be.

Foods are divided into three groups according to the colors of a Stoplight, so participants with IDD can understand how to make healthier food choices. 

a stoplight with the words "go, slow, and whoa" corresponding to the green, yellow, and red lights, respectively. Green foods are anytime go choices like fruit and vegetables. Yellow foods are sometimes slow foods like cereal, grain, and eggs. Red foods are rarely whoa foods like candy, cookies, and soft drinks

Sessions include a variety of activities, such as

  • assembling a balanced meal
  • measuring healthy portion sizes
  • choosing healthier foods at fast food restaurants
  • playing a Healthy Bingo game

The program relays how important physical activity is to good health, and how everybody can learn fun ways to move their bodies.

How is Stoplight Healthy Living Delivered?

The program was tested with groups of people with IDD in cooperation with service providers across the state of Kansas, who found it to be a fun, hands-on way to provide health information to this group. Now, it is ready to be delivered by anyone interested in helping people with IDD make healthy choices.

It was designed to be delivered in six weekly group sessions. Each session lasts 60-75 minutes. Delivery should begin with Session One, even if the other sessions are not delivered, as this session includes information about the Stoplight Food Program that the other sessions build on. But beyond that, facilitators (those delivering the program) can deliver it in a way that works best for the people they are working with.  

Program information and materials are provided here:

A brief Stoplight Facilitator Manual (PDF) provides:

  • Background on the program and tips on how to deliver it.
  • Materials for each session include descriptions of session activities, scripts, and materials that can be copied off for use during the sessions
  • Lists of Healthy Snacks and links to exercise videos can enhance sessions and also be used to reinforce healthy habits when the sessions are completed, see below.
  • Stoplight Healthy Living Supplies List available here.

A virtual Train-the-Trainer model for Stoplight was also developed. Once trained in how to deliver Stoplight Healthy Living disability service providers can conduct the program at their own sites. Train-the-Trainer PowerPoint.

Session 1: Introduction to Stoplight Food Groups

A placemat illustrating the green, yellow, and red foodsParticipants are introduced to:

  • GREEN, YELLOW, and RED food groups
  • The concept of choosing healthier foods more often to feel better.

They are invited to engage in several activities around choosing a balanced meal and making choices based on the three food groups.

Download Session 1 Materials (DOCX)



Session 2: Get Moving!

participants wave their hands in the air, playing a gameParticipants can learn about:

  • the importance of regular physical activity for good health
  • different types of exercise
  • ways to have fun while getting physical activity.

They are invited to exercise as a group to a videotaped aerobic routine.

Download Session 2 Materials (DOCX)


Session 3: Healthy Beverages and Healthy Snacking

A display of various drink choicesParticipants are engaged through a Sugary Drinks display to learn about:

  • the amount of sugar in common drinks
  • healthy snacks that can replace those with lower sugar, and fat.

A guessing game helps participants to learn how much sugar is in common drinks.

Download Session 3 Materials (DOCX)



Session 4: Healthy Meal Prep

a placemat illustrating the portionsParticipants discuss and experience:

  • how to use one's hands to measure healthy portions of various foods
  • ways to make common dishes healthier, such as by choosing more foods from the GREEN group.

Download Session 4 Materials (DOCX)




Session 5: Grocery Shopping for Health

A woman in the produce aisleParticipants view a video showing a person with IDD buying a variety of produce and learn about:

  • shopping for healthy foods
  • using a color-coded shopping list that encourages purchasing more GREEN foods.

Whether or not participants do their own grocery shopping, they can learn about a variety of GREEN foods to make healthy choices each week.

Download Session 5 Materials (DOCX)


Session 6: Healthy Choices When Eating Out and Celebration!

Jeremy shows off his certificateParticipants are:

  • provided menus from several fast-food restaurants
  • engaged in a role play exercise to practice ordering healthier meals using information they learned in previous sessions.

The program ends with a celebration, and the awarding of completion certificates, snacks, and a party featuring dancing, a Healthy Bingo game, or both!

Download Session 6 Materials (DOCX)

Healthy Snack List

This list includes ideas and some recipes for healthy snacks (PDF) that can be served during each session, if desired. It can be used to introduce participants to some healthy foods (such as hummus and Greek yogurt) that they may not have tried before.

Exercise Video List

This list includes exercise videos that accommodate both participants who can walk and stand to exercise and those who use wheelchairs. The videos are of different lengths and brief descriptions are provided.

We hope that you will find Stoplight Healthy Living useful in your efforts to assist people with IDD in making healthy choices!