What Is GOLO Smart Card?

The GOLO Smart Card refers to a tool provided by the GOLO weight loss program that offers guidance on creating balanced meals using four food groups, including proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats.

The 2017 study by Katie Evans from University College Cork revealed that using a concise food list, such as a GOLO smart card, in a web-based 24-hour dietary recall tool, yields nutrient intake estimates closely aligned with those derived from an extensive list, demonstrating that a concise food list is suitable for accurately assessing food and nutrient intakes in Irish adults, with limited differences and strong positive correlations.

The GOLO Smart Card helps individuals achieve weight loss goals by guiding portion control and categorizing foods, enabling users to make healthier choices and construct well-balanced meals as part of the GOLO diet plan. According to a 2019 study by Winnie Bell, using a food card system can enable accurate household-level food and nutrient analyses, capturing about 90% of the total intake and variation for key nutrients.

This article explores the details behind the GOLO smart card, how it works, how to use it in the GOLO meal plan, and how it differs from meal plan recommendations present in other diets, such as the Optavia lean and green 5 and 1 plan.

What is the GOLO for Life Smart Card food group system?

The GOLO Smart Card food group system is an essential part of the GOLO diet, offering a cheat sheet on creating balanced breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, totaling 1,300 to 1,800 calories per day, and including information on the number of servings and serving sizes.

The GOLO Smart Card encourages individuals to focus on consuming real, nutrient-dense foods in their meals and helps them understand the importance of portion control, as illustrated in this picture.

photo of GOLO smart card

Each meal is made of four components, which are listed below.

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy fats


In the context of diet, proteins are essential macromolecules composed of amino acids that support the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues, and they are commonly found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and nuts.

Most of the GOLO meals are suggested to have 2 servings of proteins, with the serving size depending on the type of protein. The recommended servings are as follows:

  • 3 oz of lean meat (such as chicken breast, turkey, or lean beef)
  • 3 oz of lean fish (such as cod, tilapia, or haddock)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz of all-natural cheese
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk or plain yogurt
  • 3 oz of tofu or tempeh
  • 2 oz of raw nuts
  • 1/4 oz of quinoa, beans, or lentils.

These guidelines are in line with MyPlate U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations. The general recommendation for most adults is to consume about 5 to 6.5 ounce-equivalents from the Protein Foods Group per day.

By including specific examples of lean meats and fish, these guidelines help ensure that individuals following the GOLO diet receive an adequate and balanced intake of proteins, contributing to overall health and weight management.


Carbohydrates are organic compounds made of sugar molecules that provide the body with energy and are found in foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, playing a crucial role in a balanced diet.

As per the GOLO Smart Card, most meals are suggested to have 1 serving of carbohydrates, with the serving size varying by type, which is listed below.

  • All fruits 1/2 cup
  • Potatoes 1/2 cup
  • Pasta 1/2 cup
  • Bread or tortilla 1 piece
  • Brown rice 1/2 cup
  • Oatmeal 1/2 cup

While the GOLO Smart Card emphasizes portion-controlled servings of carbohydrates, the WHO focuses on an overall intake primarily from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and pulses. For adults, WHO recommends at least 400g of vegetables and fruits per day, and specific amounts for children and adolescents based on age.

Additionally, WHO suggests a daily intake of naturally occurring dietary fiber, with at least 25g for adults and varying amounts for children, emphasizing the consumption of whole, unprocessed carbohydrate sources, which may differ from the specific portion guidance provided by the GOLO plan.


Vegetables are plant-based foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and they are essential components of a balanced diet, often consumed in various forms such as raw, cooked, or juiced.

According to the GOLO Smart Card, it is suggested that most meals include 1-2 servings of vegetables. The serving sizes depend on the type of vegetable and its carbohydrate content. Specific guidelines within the GOLO plan may include the following.

  • 1 cup for most vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of peas and corn
  • 1 cup of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.

These recommendations align with broader dietary guidelines set by the federal government, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommend that adults consume at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day as part of a healthy eating pattern.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats refer to unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in plant and fish oils, avocados, nuts, and certain seeds, which can benefit heart health by maintaining good cholesterol levels, reducing bad cholesterol, and providing essential fatty acids for the absorption of vitamins A, D, and E.

Most of the GOLO meals are suggested to have 1 serving of healthy fats, encompassing a range of options:

  • Butter (1 tsp)
  • Olive, avocado, or coconut oil (1 tsp to 1 tbsp)
  • Homemade dressing (2 tbsp)
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes (3 tbsp)
  • Olives (8 pieces).

These quantities are designed to contribute to the overall daily intake of fats while aligning with the NHS guidelines, which emphasize the importance of unsaturated fats and recommend keeping the consumption of saturated fats to no more than 30g for men and 20g for women per day, and trans fats to no more than about 5g per day. The GOLO Smart Card’s guidance on healthy fats supports the balanced consumption of fats, recognizing their essential role in the diet while helping to manage the risk associated with excessive intake.

How do you use the GOLO Smart Card for the GOLO meal plan?

This list of 9 steps shows how to use the GOLO Smart Card when creating a GOLO meal plan.

  1. Design a Meal Plan for the Day: Use the GOLO Smart Card to outline your daily meal plan, selecting proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats as per GOLO guidelines.
  2. Create a Template: Develop a reusable template for weekly meal planning, incorporating the GOLO Smart Card’s portion control and food group guidelines.
  3. Create a Shopping List: Based on your meal plan and template, compile a GOLO diet shopping list that includes diverse food options, such as 3 oz of tilapia, 1/2 cup of brown rice, or 1 tsp of coconut oil.
  4. Organize Your Kitchen: Arrange your kitchen to have easy access to the ingredients and tools needed for the GOLO meal plan, enhancing the efficiency of meal preparation.
  5. Select Proteins: For each meal, choose 2 servings of protein like 1/4 oz of quinoa or 3 oz of lean beef, as guided by the GOLO Smart Card.
  6. Include Carbohydrates: Add 1 serving of carbohydrates, selecting from options like 1/2 cup of pasta or 1 piece of tortilla.
  7. Add Vegetables: Incorporate 1-2 servings of vegetables, such as 1 cup of most vegetables or 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
  8. Incorporate Healthy Fats: Include 1 serving of healthy fats, such as 8 pieces of olives or 2 tbsp of homemade dressing.
  9. Review and Adjust: Regularly review and adjust your meal plan, shopping list, and kitchen organization based on the probability of distribution and individual preferences, utilizing the GOLO Smart Card to ensure balanced nutrition and alignment with weight management goals.

How do recommendations on the GOLO Smart Card differ from other popular weight loss diets?

The recommendations on the GOLO Smart Card differ from other popular weight loss diets such as WW (formerly Weight Watchers) primarily in their approach to portion control and categorization.

While WW utilizes a Points system to allocate specific values to different food items, focusing on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains within a daily Points allowance, the GOLO Smart Card emphasizes specific serving sizes for proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats, providing detailed guidelines for portion sizes and aiming to align with broader nutritional guidelines such as those from MyPlate, WHO, CDC, and NHS.

How does the GOLO Smart Card differ from the Optavia lean and green serving size?

The serving size on the GOLO Smart Card differs from the Optavia Lean and Green serving size, particularly in the allocation of proteins, where GOLO typically suggests 2 servings with options like 3 oz of lean meat or fish, while Optavia recommends 5 ounces of lean protein.

Additionally, GOLO’s guidelines include specific serving sizes for carbohydrates and vegetables, whereas Optavia’s Lean and Green plan emphasizes non-starchy vegetables with serving sizes of 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw, and optional healthy fats ranging from 1 to 2 tablespoons.