A difficult, but important first step is to stop villainizing and/or moralizing foods.
A few examples include avoiding food labels such as “junk foods,” “good foods” or “healthy/unhealthy foods.” It’s difficult to begin challenging these ingrained beliefs (heavily pushed on us by diet culture), however, no food is inherently bad. Instead, let’s refer to and use such terms as hunger, fullness, satisfaction, enjoyment, variety and balance when talking about food. Here are a few examples of positive food talk:
“That’s your second granola bar today. Grab a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit.”
Replace with: “You had a granola bar earlier. How about yogurt or a cheese stick with some fruit?”
“Sure, you can grab a snack, but no junk food!”
Replace with: “What sounds good to you right now? Be sure you’re mixing your food choices.”
“You’re going to feel so much better after eating the carrot sticks than the French fries.”
Replace with: “How about some of both? Different foods offer different nutrients. Plus, fries are so yummy!”
Setting your child up with a foundation for knowing how to nourish and care for their body and not view food through a lens of fear is the best support you could offer. This will also reduce their risk for physically and mentally damaging unhealthy food behaviors in the future.