Food Feelings, Choices, and Stigmas - The Children's House

Home / Blog / Food Feelings, Choices, and Stigmas

Food Feelings, Choices, and Stigmas

by Britny Tollstam
Friday, April 14, 2023

We had a lot of talk in the classroom about candy and treats upon our return from the Easter weekend. I thought this would be a great time to open a discussion about how we handle the variety of foods we make available to children. There is a shifting trend, particularly in the parenting arena, where we are asked to stop placing foods into a hierarchy. When we remove the labels that certain foods are good, better, or best, we can also remove the negative feelings of guilt and shame that develop around our food choices. 

Also, outdated phrases like, “clean plate club” or “no dessert until you finish all your food” are being removed from our language at the table. Rather than external control from others, we must encourage people to listen to their bodies and decide for themselves when they are full or satisfied. 

Consider this graphic:

How does each side make you feel? Are there any historical or cultural notions that come up for you?

In the course, Feeding Littles, I was introduced to the phrase, “we provide, and they decide.” As parents and caregivers, we can provide the kinds of foods we want the children to be exposed to but then we must allow them to decide how much. And sometimes, children need to be exposed to certain foods dozens of times before they will agree to try them. 

Do you have a picky eater?

Many families have fallen into the trap of making two meals at a time - the children’s meal and then their own adult meal. One solution is to make one meal for everyone (exposure) and include something you know your child will eat in the meal. Eating together is another good way to role-model healthy food habits.

In the classroom, I tell the children, who are participating in school lunch, that, “I have to put everything available on your plate, it’s my job.” I just state it as a matter of fact and move along. In this way, I have witnessed several children decide to try something unfamiliar, after telling me they don’t want that on their plate. Once they see their friends, or the adults sampling the food then they become inspired to try too.  

We will certainly continue talking about how different foods help our bodies in different ways, but the stigma around certain food choices will strategically be removed.