What would happen if we took the word "healthy" off the table?

What would happen if we took the word "healthy" off the table?

How do you talk about food to your children?

Do you find yourself saying things like:

“I’ve been really good lately because I’ve eaten X, Y or Z.”

“My son only likes bad food.”

“We’ve been eating such bad food lately.”

“You should try it. It’s healthy.”

“We only eat healthy food.”

What can “good” or “bad” food mean to children?

Young children think in very black and white terms. For example, when they hear about “good” or “bad” food, they may think that eating that food makes them a “good” or “bad” person. What we eat does not reflect who we are as a person - they are two separate things. Do you remember the way food was talked about when you were younger? Do you think it has affected the way you think and talk about food now?

But how will they know what’s healthy?

The best way for children to learn about food and eating well is through you modelling that behaviour. It’s our job to decide what food to offer and it’s our child’s job to decide if they want to eat, and how much to eat. Over time children will learn what foods make up well balanced meals and snacks, but we don’t need to use the word “healthy” to teach them that. In fact, there’s research to show that using the word “healthy” to describe a food can make it less appealing to eat.

If you are struggling to know what a balanced food intake is for your child, talk to your child health nurse. You can also visit the Healthy Kids website for more information, including How to Feed children.

So, if we don’t use the word “healthy” (or “good” or “bad”) what do we say?

When offering your child food, simply use the name of the food instead of putting a positive or negative label on it. For example, “for morning tea there’s some cut up fruit and veggie sticks and some cake”. Simple as that. You’ll have done your job providing the food and then it’s up to your child if they choose to eat it and how much they eat.

Other words you could use instead of “healthy” include saying something like:

“this carrot is really crunchy”

“these strawberries are really sweet”

“this yoghurt is pink and creamy”.