Taboo! 7 phrases parents should not say to children at the dinner table

We want to teach our children healthy eating habits from an early age, and it is not easy at all. After all, we want the offspring to have a positive relationship with food later in life. But to convey this, parents should avoid certain phrases when eating with their children.

Examples of healthy eating habits should not seem forced. We parents must set a good example, but also teach our children that they must listen to their bodies and their needs, and that we will then accept them. There is quite a lot to take into account.

7 phrases that are taboo when it comes to food

None of us parents are perfect, but we try very hard to do as much as we can. Sometimes it works more, sometimes less, and that’s totally ok. But if there is frustration on all sides of your family when it comes to food, maybe take a closer look at what phrases you say at the family table and whether there are alternatives that make you all feel better.

1. “You’re too fat, you need to eat less!”

Every body is different. Making your child feel bad about their body is the wrong way to motivate them to eat healthy. Because with body shaming, and that’s exactly what this phrase is, you don’t achieve anything at all. If your child is indeed overweight, you should work on it together and not blame your child. After all, it is ultimately up to you what goes on the table and in the fridge.

What you can say instead: “We all eat more fruit and vegetables now. It’s good for us and our bodies!”

2. “You’re too thin, you need to eat more!”

While many parents would probably not want to tell their child that they are too fat, it is easier for us to say “You are too thin”. Unfortunately, it is not better. Because both phrases are not good for your child’s self-confidence and body image and can damage the little child’s soul and lead to complexes. Again, every body is different.

What you can say instead (if your kids don’t want to eat): “Food gives us the energy we need to think and frolic. That’s why regular tasty meals are important to us.”

3. “Eat your plate!”

How would you feel if you were forced to keep eating even though you were full for a long time? would you do it Certainly not. Children have a very good sense of their bodies, which they lose when we push them to eat past their fullness.

What you can say instead: “Tired? No problem, we can keep the leftovers for tomorrow.”

4. “I’ll eat something else, but you have to eat this!”

You eat the delicious dessert while your child lazily digs into the cauliflower casserole. How unfair is that? Because you are a role model, you should follow the family rules. Of course, you shouldn’t eat something you don’t like yourself, but then you can’t ask your children to either. Talking calmly about individual likes and dislikes at the table is always an exciting topic for everyone in the family to talk about. Also because the once unloved spinach does not have to be disgusting for life. After all, taste is always evolving.

What you can say instead: “Dad’s favorite vegetables are carrots, they’re nice and crunchy and good for the eyes! What’s your favorite vegetable?”

5. “The reward is ice cream (or chocolate, etc.)!”

Food should never be a comfort or reward. Of course, it’s perfectly okay to cook a sick child their favorite meal to make them feel better. But advertising candy to get kids to choke on foods they hate or do things they don’t want at all is not a good idea. Otherwise, it may happen that your children seek comfort in food when there are later setbacks in their lives. You should also reconsider the compulsion to eat unloved food to get dessert. If you link (negative) experiences to tastes or smells, it will influence your children’s eating behaviour.

What you can say instead: “You did well! Thanks for your help.”

6. “Don’t cry, here’s some chocolate to cheer you up!”

As with point five, the same applies here: Do not associate food with things that have nothing to do with it. Above all, the coupling of food and emotions can lay the foundation for unhealthy behaviors that are difficult to unlearn.

What you can say instead: “Will you tell me why you’re upset? I’m sure we can do something about it together.”

7. “Vegetables are good and chocolate is bad”

Food is food. Nobody likes to eat everything. But food is never good or bad. We all don’t want our offspring to eat tons of unhealthy food, but everything in moderation. If you completely ban sweets from your children, they will also become very interesting. And when they get the feeling that everything is forbidden at home, older children find ways and means to eat these foods in secret. Studies show, for example, that children who are not given sweets at home prefer the sweetest soda, while the other children also choose soda that contains less sugar.

What you can say instead: “You can have a piece of chocolate, but first let’s see what we could make for lunch. Preferably something with lots of colorful ingredients!”

My opinion

Food is a problem in every family. It is usually perceived as stressful because someone does not like something or refuses to do it. As a child I myself had many bad food experiences, so I know how it can shape you for the rest of your life. That’s why I think it’s so important to pay attention to what people are saying, how food in general is treated as a topic. I can only appeal to you: it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If a child says ten times: I don’t like spinach, they don’t have to try it every time.

Many people and their families are now vegetarians or vegans. We have a few recipes that you can copy very quickly and easily.

Image credit: Getty Images/Drazen Zigic

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