Kids are sponges and so the way we talk about food and the language we use around them is really important. If we’re not mindful about how we categorise food, respond to their requests and reactions and talk about ourselves in relation to food then we may actually be encouraging our kids to have an unhealthy relationship with food, rather than one that is neutral and healthy.
So how CAN we talk about food?
1. We can refer to foods by their name or by their food category – avoid labels that
judge the food:
For example: piece of fruit, vegetables, dairy, cheesecake, sandwich, crisps, ice cream,
Avoid labels like: bad, naughty, junk, good, special treat.
2. We can respond non-judgementally and neutrally to our kids remarks about food
For example, if your child says that their peas are disgusting, tell them that they don’t need to eat it. Trust the power of choice and give your kids a choice in what they decide to eat.
Forcing kids certain foods will create negative experiences associated with that food or that meal. Give them choice and they’re more likely to return to it more openly another day.
Example two, if your child wants food that you’re not offering, firstly say ‘yes’ to something.
This shows you have listened to your child’s request. “Yes you can have a chocolate biscuit after dinner” or “yes, chocolate biscuits are tasty”. Secondly, tell them what they can have. “Now we have either bananas or raisins”. Then thirdly, be clear on when you can meet their request, this is important so they do not think that the food they want is ‘bad’ or forbidden. “Let’s put chocolate biscuits on the supermarket list for next week”.
3. We can talk about ourselves and food in a neutral and non-judgemental way
For example, avoid talking about the need to lose weight or that you were ‘naughty’
yesterday because of something you ate. Instead you could say things like “biscuits are tasty but today I think I’ll chose an apple” or “I’ll eat this and then see if I still feel hungry”.
Making sure that we talk in a way that is going to support our kids in making a positive,
healthy relationship with food and their bodies may come as a bit of a challenge at first!
Our habits of speech can be hard to change but the more awareness we bring to it, the easier it is to adjust and choose different words. No doubt the change will not only positively affect your children, but will improve your own relationship with food and yourself too.