Is this food "Healthy?"
“Is this food Healthy?” This is a question my 7 year old daughter has been asking more and more this year. I know it must come from school, peers or other grown-ups, because I am very careful to never label foods as healthy or unhealthy. Campaigns like the American Heart Association’s “Heart Month” also focus on nutrition messages geared directly to kids at school and I’ve heard from other parents that their kids are displaying food anxieties stemming from these messages.
While it might seem educational to teach kids about healthy eating and nutrition, it can actually be counter-productive. Kids still want the “unhealthy” foods because they taste good, but teaching them that they are bad for our bodies can create a level of fear and shame when they are eaten. .
So, how do I answer this question when my 7 year old asks? I remind her that all foods are healthy. Some foods are healthy because they give us nutrition that helps our bodies and other foods are healthy because they make us smile, they taste good and are comforting (and bonus points to foods that provide all of the above!).
Bottom line: kids don’t eat more fruits and veggies just because we teach them that these foods are “healthy” and they don’t eat less chips, candy or desserts because we’ve labeled them “unhealthy.” When all foods are neutral and have a role, kids can develop a healthy relationship with all foods and will naturally gravitate toward variety.
I hope the American Heart Association’s future programming can steer away from talking about foods that are “unhealthy” and instead teach kids:
✅where food comes from
✅what different fruits and veggies taste like
✅what it feels like to move our bodies
✅how to prepare foods
✅self care skills, such as deep breathing
What questions do the kids in your life ask about food?