The language that we use has a massive impact on the mealtime environment and our children’s relationship with food. Here are 5 quick tips when talking about food with your children:
1. Not using labels for our children, such as “picky”.
As a culture we have started to use the term "picky" a lot to describe our kiddos eating habits. We as therapists do it too, although we prefer to use "hesitant eater" though the take away is we don't say this to our kiddos. Kids take to heart what we say and they live up to our “labels”. If your child is not eating well or a variety of foods, acknowledging their efforts and moving on or simply saying nothing can be the best option.
2. Avoiding fear based language around eating or not eating certain foods.
We have all heard those old adages such as “If you don’t eat carrots, you will have poor eye sight.” Rather than using fear, consider focusing on balance and gratitude around eating, embracing and the acceptance of a variety of foods. i.e- “Our family is so lucky we get to have tacos and apples, broccoli and muffins.”
3. Focusing on natural conversations at mealtimes; not making them all about food.
Mealtimes are an important time to re-connect as a family and discuss one’s day, upcoming events and catch up with one another. When we focus mainly on the food and consumption at meal times it puts pressure on our children and takes away from our quality time that brings joy to mealtimes.
4. Avoiding using terms such as “healthy” vs “unhealthy”; “good” vs “bad”.
Kids start using this language as early as 2 years old and the language we use affects the relationship they build wth food. Consider focusing on descriptive terms of the foods you’re eating, such as colour, texture (crunchy, soft, etc.), taste (spicy, sweet, salty), and temperature.
5. “Don’t yuck someone else’s YUM” – this is a common term used in the feeding world.
It simply means just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you have to say it to everyone at the table. When we comment on how we don’t like certain foods in front of our children, they are likely to start disliking something as well since kids look to their parents and older siblings as models. It’s ok to have preferences; the key here is avoiding broadcasting to the whole table and making a “big” deal out of it. Consider keeping it simple and saying “no, thank you”.
We hope we provided you with a few tips to use when talking to your kids about food. Wishing you a wonderful Easter spent with your family and friends while enjoying a variety of delicious foods!
Your Feeding Team,