I love food. I love cooking it; I love eating it; I love growing it in tiny spaces like windowsills or on our roof, and I love picking it at any farm that will let me. Food makes me feel good, and helps me feel connected to my roots and to the people I love.Food is also a contentious thing at times, especially in a world where people moralize about food and treat food as something that can be "good" or "bad." That's why I have some rules for talking to my kids about food. Honestly, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched a commercial go on and on about how “sinful” some chocolate is, or how women like me should eat some food substitute so we can enjoy “all the taste without the guilt.” As a mom trying to raise healthy, confident, and body-positive kids in a world that’s weird about food, combating these messages is vital and, well, that means some guidelines need to be put in place.
Like everyone else, I’m not perfect and I’m still working to unlearn a lifetime’s worth of problematic messages about food and bodies. I still catch myself falling prey to what Michael Pollan calls “nutritionism,” and scrambling to ensure that I present balanced ideas about food, versus reducing them to their nutrient profiles. However, I'm constantly trying to avoid bombarding my kids with the same messages that most of us got from our families or from our broader culture. I don’t want my kids to have hang-ups about food but, instead, I want them to understand that they’re in charge of their own bodies; a fundamental part of learning about body autonomy and consent in other aspects of life.
Fortunately and unfortunately, I’m not the only person who will ever eat with my kids or talk to them about food. So, talking about certain foods as being “sinful” (even if they're “sinfully good”), saying that they (or you) should feel guilty about eating certain foods, or saying that you’ll need to work out afterwards to “pay for it,” sends a lot of confusing and problematic messages to kids. If you like a food, just eat it and enjoy it. Don’t suggest that people deserve to be punished for liking certain things. Instead, keep the following things in mind, if only to spare me even a few tricky conversations or late-breaking food drama once we get home: