Food: what not to say

All parents want to instill good eating habits in their children. To do this, they use a multitude of tactics to ensure that children are eating well, in the right amount, and when they want them, with the best of intentions.


What if these practices had the opposite effect?

While these strategies often have the desired effect immediately, they can also negatively influence children’s food choices, preferences, and their ability to recognize and respect their hunger cues.

“No chips are bad for your health”

The food supply is full of attractive, inexpensive and low-nutrient foods. In response to this “obesogenic” environment, some parents are tempted to completely ban certain “junk” foods from their children’s diet.

These forbidden foods then become much more interesting and attractive than the permitted foods… And when the prohibited foods are (finally!) Available, children are at great risk of consuming them beyond their hunger.

In addition, this type of discourse encourages children to categorize foods as “good” or “bad” foods and to prefer the latter. However, no food has the power to guarantee health (not even salad!). It’s all a question of balance, dose and frequency.


Behaviors to promote: All foods have their place in a healthy diet. However, it is important to focus more on nutritious foods and offer less nutritious foods, such as chips on occasion. The child who does not feel deprived is more attentive to his hunger, and therefore less tempted to jump on the bowl of chips.


We can also ask him to qualify his level of hunger  : “Are you very hungry or a little hungry?” He is then served an amount corresponding to his level of hunger in a bowl.

“ If you don’t eat your broccoli, you won’t have dessert. ”

Any parent would love to see their child devour their broccoli. But associating a food with a punishment is certainly not the best way to positively influence the child’s perception of this type of food.

And at the same time, this type of remark presents the dessert as the supreme reward, which only fuels the child’s desire for sweet treats. It is also well known, the bans lead most of the time to overconsumption!

Likewise, the promise of food in exchange for a task (“You will have cookies when you have cleaned your room”, for example) is more likely to increase the child’s preference for this task. food-reward.


The child must develop his own tastes and preferences. Enjoying broccoli or mushrooms, for example, may take a little longer. No need to insist that he eats broccoli at all costs .


Behaviors to promote  : Instead, focus on positive experiences of family meals during which you talk enthusiastically about the characteristics of the food  : “Yum, I love the texture and color of broccoli. Do you think it looks like small trees? “Or” Do you know which country these vegetables come from? ”


“Finish Your Plate”

Recognizing hunger signals plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. By seeing himself obliged to continue eating when he is no longer hungry, the child learns to no longer trust the satiety signals sent by his body.


As a result, in situations where food is readily available, the child will tend to eat more, even if he is not hungry, a behavior that increases the risk of developing overweight.


Behaviors to be valued: Remember that as parents, you decide when, where, how and what to eat . However, only children know how much they need by listening to the signals their body is sending them. Help him maintain this good habit by asking him, for example: “Have you had enough food? ”

” Do not eat too much cake, it’s fattening “

Some comments linking food and body image can instil in children an unhealthy relationship with certain foods and with his body.

Cake is seen as a forbidden, desired and attractive food, but also a source of guilt. Its consumption satisfies his appetite, but also makes him ashamed of having deviated from what he perceives as a family norm.


Overconsumption behaviors or dietary restrictions could then occur.


Behaviors to promote: Offer the cake occasionally and encourage the child to enjoy it. Dessert is a single serving, and everyone in the family is entitled to it, without exception.


To help your child develop good eating habits:


  • set a good example by enjoying a variety of nutritious foods, eating slowly and stopping eating when you are full ;
  • advocate the pleasure of tasting and discovering foods rather than the forbidden;
  • at the table, offer him a variety of nutritious foods, and let him decide how much ;
  • make sure your child is getting enough sleep, as fatigue can skew their hunger and fullness signals;


  • Avoid presenting dessert and snack foods as forbidden by offering your child the opportunity to eat them from time to time;
  • avoid referring to foods as “good” or “bad”;
  • avoid using food to reward or punish your child ;
  • Avoid translating your own concerns about your weight or body image onto your children by avoiding comments about appearance.
  • By adopting these attitudes and behaviors with your child, you will, at the same time, promote the attainment and maintenance of a natural weight which is specific to him .

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