Campus News

Language is important when talking to kids about food, dietician says

Emma Laing, clinical professor and director of dietetics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, spoke with aSweatLife about the right way to talk to your kids about food and nutrition.

Laing says that labeling foods as either “good” or “bad” can be detrimental, especially for children.

“When ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ eating habits are mentioned in the household, this can lead to harmful effects among children, such as reduced self-esteem and disordered eating behaviors,” she said.

The way that parents talk about their own eating habits has a direct impact on the way that children interact with food and nutrition. If a parent eliminates certain food groups because they are “bad for you,” it teaches a child that consuming those foods is wrong and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, Laing recommends using neutral descriptors like the color, texture, flavor or even temperature when discussing food options with kids.

Laing also suggests “avoiding comments about calorie counts, body weight and size, and any food restrictions.”

“When you praise your child, focus on qualities other than physical appearances, such as personality, creativity, kindness and other positive attributes. Shift discussions away from food and weight,” she said.