Healthy Kids

Diet Culture Dropout: Best Advice for New Parents on Feeding Kids


When people ask what I do, I hesitate to share. Because telling people I’m a dietitian automatically creates assumptions about me and how I feed my kids. 

“Oh your kids must eat SO healthy!”, or, “I bet your children just love eating vegetables and will eat anything you put in front of them.”

When really, if you were an outsider looking in, you would see a much different reality. 

Yes, it’s true my friends. 

I’m a dietitian and I let my children eat snack foods for breakfast. Yes, I’m referring to what you think I’m referring to: fruit snacks, cheese puffs, teddy bears, pirate booty. Oh yes, they’re all on rotation. 

We have sweets in our home on a regular basis. 

One of my children is a selective eater with sensory sensitivities and wouldn’t touch vegetables and countless other foods for YEARS. 

If this is an honest confession, then there’s no hold barred. 

Because not only am I a dietitian. I’m a mother, too -first and foremost. I’m also a diet culture dropout.

And do you know what I care more about than nutrition? 

I care about my children having a positive relationship with all foods and feeling confident in their bodies. 

Maybe it’s my own history and struggle with an eating disorder past that has me so passionate about this. Maybe it’s the work I do, where I see families struggling with feeding their kids because of the pervasiveness of the diet culture we live in. And maybe because I’m tired of all the food rules I see robbing families of freedom to enjoy eating together. 

Really, it’s a combination of all those things. 

So I’m on a mission to help you reclaim the joy that should be part of eating. I don’t want you to miss out on memories of your motherhood or your children growing up because of worries or fears around food and eating. 

I don’t want you or your children to associate stress or negativity around mealtimes, when these should be times to reconnect as a family. 

The good news here is that you don’t have to sacrifice a positive relationship with food for good nutrition. Choosing to focus on supporting your children doesn’t mean that you’re throwing nutrition out the window and not “caring” anymore. No way. You do this because you care, and what you’ll find is that good nutrition for your children will naturally come from a healthy relationship with food. 

So where can you start? What might this look like in your home? 

When you’re looking at the big picture, it may seem impossible to work toward something different in your home. Especially if food feels complicated and feeding children feels stressful. We’re already bombarded with so many “rules” about feeding children and what we should do to raise healthy eaters. Much of this information is highly infiltrated by diet culture. 

So today, I want to help you move one tiny step beyond that, toward enjoying freedom with food as a family. 

And really, it starts with you. 

You have the capacity to chart a different course for your family, one that’s unhindered by food rules and diet culture. One that allows you to experience freedom with food – for yourself and your family. 

In effort to help you do this, I want to look at one area that tends to be most stressful for many parents raising their children today. 

Can you guess what it is? 

It’s all about food rules.

Internalized rules about how or what we should or shouldn’t be feeding ourselves or our children.

Does any of this sound familiar? 

  • Don’t let your children eat any packaged foods

  • Don’t offer them processed foods

  • No added sugar before the age of 2

  • Limit sweets in your home, don’t let your children eat sugar

  • Don’t eat anything frozen

  • Avoid convenience foods

  • Fresh is best, make everything homemade

  • Only organic foods

  • No GMO’s

  • No chocolate milk

  • No fruit juice

  • No artificial colors or flavors

And the list goes on and on. 

But what do you do when your children gravitate towards these foods that should supposedly be “off-limits”? 

This is where I see the power struggles start between children and their caregivers, where conflict begins to arise around food. 

Maybe you recognize this? 

On the one hand, you want your children to eat nutritious foods. You want them to be healthy and build a strong immune system. You don’t want them to struggle behaviorally, or maybe you worry about their body sizes. You want them to thrive and grow up capable and strong. 

On the other hand, we live in a world where all kinds of foods exist, including sweets, convenience foods and packaged snacks. Your kids may constantly ask for them or seem slightly obsessed with them. They might see their friends eating them or be the first things they think about when they go over to someone’s house. You might gravitate toward them at times because they’re convenient and easy to throw in your bags as you rush out the door. But inside, you might feel a tinge of guilt and worry about your kids eating these foods. 

Why is that? 

Let’s look a little deeper to unpack this a bit. 

(Read more about my approach to sweets on this post here: “This Child Dietitian Nutritionist Lets Kids Eat Candy For Breakfast”)

What is Diet Culture and How Does it Impact Motherhood?

The truth is diet culture has infiltrated how we feel about feeding our kids. 

What is diet culture you might ask? 

Diet culture is a set of rules and beliefs around food that values thinness, appearance and body size above well-being and health. It’s associated with food labeling (i.e. good versus bad foods) and rigid food rules. Diet culture equates health with restricting and/or avoiding certain foods and causes us to believe that our self-worth is tied to how we look. 

You don’t have to be on a diet to be affected by this toxic belief system. 

In fact, diet culture has permeated our parenting circles and creeped into our beliefs around how we should feed our children. Diet culture takes on a black and white perspective when it comes to feeding and parenting, making us feel that our abilities as parents are tied to what our children eat. 

The evolution of the wellness industry over the years has perpetrated these lies, with the ideas around “clean eating”.

Diet culture in feeding our children can look like any of these things: 

  • Feeling pressured to feed our children certain foods

  • Being told we’re responsible for the outcome of our children’s’ weight

  • Feeling our self-worth as parents comes from how we feed our children and what they eat

  • Pressure to restrict or limit access to certain foods demonized by diet culture (common culprit include any processed, packaged foods and sweets of all kinds)

  • Being scrutinized because of our children’s body sizes, pathologizing bodies based on shape/size

  • Rules around how and what we feed our children that become paralyzing (i.e. don’t let your children drink chocolate milk, no added sugars, etc)

  • Demonizing cultural foods 

  • Being told our children’s appetites or food preferences are “wrong” or problematic

  • Taking a one sided approach to food and nutrition without considering the individual and family unit

  • Black and white way of thinking about food 

  • External guidelines for how/what to eat that take away from our children’s internal abilities to eat and self-regulate what they need

It’s no wonder that we’re ridden with guilt when our children favor foods like fruit snacks or cheese puffs, or feel inadequate as parents when our kids turn their noses up at the homemade organic meal we prepared or show no interest in eating vegetables. 

Diet culture deems us to be bad or good parents based on how or what our children eat, when in reality, food is not a moral issue.  

In fact, this polarized way of thinking about food leads to rigidity around eating. 

Anytime there are external rules about what and how to eat, this deters us and our children from being able to trust our internal instincts. This is where food starts to become chaotic and stressful. 

I can tell you from firsthand experience, as someone who’s lived through it myself, that an unhealthy relationship with food is far more detrimental to your overall health and well-being than anything you could possibly eat. 

This is why it’s crucial for us as parents to step back and see the bigger picture when it comes to feeding and raising our children. 

I’m not saying that nutrition is not important. 

What I’m saying is that when nutrition takes priority over building a positive relationship with food, eating suffers in multiple ways. When we focus on building a positive relationship with food, good nutrition naturally follows. 

When we can support our children in learning how to self-regulate and enjoy a variety of foods, including their beloved packaged snack foods, they will be equipped with the tools they need to navigate all food scenarios in a world where every type of food exists. 

Why We Need to Make Peace With Food in Our Homes

This is important to remember as you find yourself confronted with foods that may seem “less than ideal” for your kids by diet culture standards. You know, all the packaged snack foods they LOVE to eat or the sweets they might gravitate toward. 

Sure, you could do everything in your power to keep them out of your home. But this won’t help you learn how to make peace with them or give your children the opportunities they need to learn how to eat them. 

Don’t forget, when food feels scarce or when kids feel like they have limited access to certain foods, this can actually increase their obsession with eating these foods. 

Children are more likely to overeat the foods they feel restricted from whenever they do get access to these foods. While we can control the types of foods our kids get access to in our homes, we aren’t able to control the types of foods they’ll have access to outside our homes. 

Many families I work with share the agony they feel over taking their children to other people’s homes because they worry about their kids overdoing it on the foods they don’t typically get to eat. When kids go crazy over sweets or snack foods whenever they do get access to them, this is often an indicator that children need more exposure to those foods within the context of their meals and snacks.

For more on this, you can check out this blog post here: “Kids Eating Too Much Sugar? 3 Reasons Your Child’s Obsessed With Sweets

In order to help our children feel more neutral about eating a variety of foods, including their packaged snack foods and sweets, we need to pivot toward making peace with them in our own home first. 

When children can trust the foods they love to eat are readily available and that they have continued access to them, the power over these foods will subside. 

In the absence of rigid rules around food, children are better able to connect to their internal regulators and eat according to what their bodies need. 

This means we need to challenge our own internalized rules around food and eating in order to support our children in learning how to eat in the absence of diet culture and in accordance with their internal regulators.

How to Break the Rigid Food Rules to Live Free From Diet Culture

If you’re exploring this for yourself and wanting to take a step forward to support your family, you may be wondering, “Where do I even start?”

This can feel overwhelming to say the least. Let me encourage you, my friend. Never underestimate the power of parents determined to end the legacy of diet culture in their families and raise intuitive eaters. 

You have more within you to help your children than you may even realize. 

One area I encourage you to start with is by examining any internalized food rules you may have and be unconsciously carrying with you. Food rules can be sneaky, and so often, we normalize certain behaviors and things we do around food without even realizing it or understanding where it formed or came from. 

So take the time to practice some awareness around this. Do you have unconscious rules about certain foods you might keep in the house? Or around the timing of when you eat or don’t eat? Or perhaps with how you eat? 

Again, this is important because we often project our own internalized food rules into the way we feed our children. 

For example, you might have an unconscious rule about sweet foods. 

Maybe you learned as a child that you should only have 1 sweet food per day or once per week and so you’ve carried this mentality with you. Maybe this is an approach you’ve now carried in the way you approach sweet foods with your children. Maybe you’ve only allowed them one sweet food per day but this seems to create conflict, as your kids may be asking for sweets more frequently than what you allow. What your children may need may seem to clash with the internalized food rule you’ve come to believe. 

Common Child Feeding Rules Influenced By Diet Culture

Rules around food can interject in how we feed our children in the most subtle ways – things that we might not even recognize as a food rule. 

It’s important to understand how diet culture works – often promoting a rigid way of thinking about food and eating while at the same time normalizing these approaches as the only way to raise a healthy family. 

In our days, diet culture has hidden under the disguise of “wellness culture”, which really is an unhealthy preoccupation with the types of foods we eat. Again, diet culture has been a normalized facet of how we live our lives, making it hard on many fronts to identify it as it pops up. 

It commonly tends to surface when it comes to feeding our children, which is why this can be an important area to examine for yourself. 

Here are some common examples of how diet culture can surface as we feed our children: 

  • Strictly controlling the foods our children eat or are able to access

  • Not allowing children to eat certain foods based on external rules (i.e “Processed foods are bad, so they can’t eat any processed foods”, “Sweets aren’t good for them, so we don’t allow any sugar in the home”, etc)

  • Avoiding events where other outside foods are available that you may feel uncomfortable about your child eating

  • Feeling stress, anxiety over what your child is eating

  • Pushing certain foods on your child that you feel are healthier for them to eat, like fruits and vegetables

  • Pressuring your child to eat certain foods or quantities

  • “Healthifying” common foods your kids might like to eat

  • Describing food from a “good” versus “bad” lens

  • Hyperfocusing on your child’s body size, weight

  • Trying to educate your child about healthy eating, choosing healthy foods, etc

  • Feeling guilt or shame about your child gravitating toward certain foods or because of their body size, shape

  • Feeling guilt or shame about the foods you might feed your family

On the surface, these things might appear to be “applauded” by diet culture. Diet culture awards and acknowledges parents who are hypervigilant about their child’s health and the foods they may or may not eat. 

But at what cost? 

Many families who get stuck into rigid rules around food or a black and white thinking about health often end up with more complicated issues. Feeding our children through diet culture often makes for chaos at mealtimes. Parents might feel stuck in a vicious cycle of power struggles with their children. Mealtimes can feel dreadful, creating negative associations around food and eating. 

When we try to get our children to conform to our rules or beliefs around food and eating, this doesn’t allow our children to preserve their innate intuitive eating abilities. 

We basically strip away the autonomy we want our children to be learning and developing, sacrificing the more important aspects of building a positive relationship with food for the sake of staying in the safe zones of diet culture. 

Please hear me out when I say we only have the best intentions as parents trying to raise healthy, competent children. 

I don’t believe there’s any parent out there that’s deliberately trying to hinder their children’s relationships with food and their bodies. 

The intention here is not to put any blame on parents whatsoever but rather, to acknowledge the toxic culture in which we’re trying to feed and raise our children. 

Diet culture is everywhere and has infiltrated everything we do, including how we parent and feed our children. If we’re not taking deliberate steps to proactively fight against it, it’s all too easy for us to be susceptible to its luring hooks. To become part of the system that so many of us want freedom from. 

So many of these approaches to feeding are things we’ve been exposed to as children and that our parents were subject to, and so on – back through the generations. 

We can be part of a generation that stops the legacy of diet culture from cycling through, so that our children experience freedom from it. 

It starts with practicing awareness of how it lurks and hides in your own home and examining the rules you’ve perhaps internalized about food and your body. What beliefs do you have about food that are now playing a role in how you feed your own children? 

Understanding this and taking the time to honestly reflect on this can position you to proactively choose something different for you and your family. Pull out a sheet of paper and actually write down some of the rules or beliefs you have about food or feeding your children that might be rooted in diet culture. 

If you’re unsure, put down whatever comes to mind. 

The more you can materialize it, the more you can examine it and understand if this is something you want to continue to carry with you or something you want to let go of to better support your children. 

Consider TRUST as a factor when reflecting on this. 

IF you don’t trust yourself or your children around food, this can be a prime trigger for rules, as rules around food offer an artificial sense of control. 

Rules are perpetuated by fear, so it’s also important to consider what you’re fearful of as you examine the food rules that have come into your home or the place you operate from when you feed your children. 

Diet culture breeds fear and promotes an idea that we can’t trust ourselves or our children when it comes to food and eating, which gives viability to food rules. 

Getting back to basics here and learning to live and eat outside of food rules means starting with the foundation of trust, for yourself and your children. 

Because in reality, feeding our children is more than a transaction: it’s not just giving them food to eat and expecting them to eat it. (This is how diet culture purports feeding our children, as something that should be controlled). 

But this misses the heart of feeding our children, which is about nurturing a trusting feeding relationship. This allows for comfort and connection, and in this context, children are able to learn to trust their bodies and build positive associations with food that support their overall health. Cultivating that trust is essential to enjoying freedom with food as a family and breaking the bonds of those internalized food rules that you may have been carrying for years, even decades. You don’t have to pass those down to your kids or continue carrying them yourself.  

Learning to eat and feed your children outside these food rules can be so powerful, not only for yourself, but transformation for how your children feel about food and their bodies. 

This is why it’s important to have awareness about your own food rules that you carry, whether unconsciously or not. What is the lens through which you feed your children and what has informed that perspective? 

When you can begin to examine this and understand it, you can start to dismantle it to feed your children outside the bounds and constructs of diet culture.

You can start taking deliberate action steps that counter these food rules to help you and your children enjoy food more freely. This is powerful for both you and your kids. 

This might look like bringing in foods that were previously off limits, or challenging your own food rules about what or how much your children “need to eat”. This may look like bending the rules you’ve had around when certain foods should be allowed (for example, many of us grew up with a food rule of only having sweet foods after dinner – but why? Who said this was the rule? And what is its purpose?

If you aren’t sure if the “rules” you have around food for your children AND yourself are related to diet culture, ask yourself, “What is the intention behind this rule?” Is the rule in place to try to exert some control over a food that might feel uncomfortable for you? Is it coming from a place of fear or a place of control? Taking an honest look at this can help you decipher the rules you may have around food, giving you clues about the rules that may need to be challenged and dismantled to better enjoy freedom with food as a family. 

Why This is Important for Our Children

You might ask yourself, “Why do all this work?” I mean, does it really matter or make a difference, especially when we continue to live submerged in a culture obsessed with dieting and rules with food? 

The answer to this question is YES. YES. Everything you do matters. 

Every brave step you’re taking toward challenging and dismantling diet culture in your home is giving your children the opportunity to live free from it. It has to start with us and in our own home. This is the foundation our children are going to learn and grow from. If they don’t have a solid foundation at home, it’s going to be so much harder for them to withstand the tidal wave of diet culture lies that will bombard them once they leave our homes. 

The reality is that children are already being exposed to this – in their schools and health curriculum, from coaches and on their sports’ teams, from friends, even trusted health professionals and everywhere in the media. Home can be their haven away from diet culture and the place where we can cultivate messages of trust around food, so they can learn to trust themselves as the best experts of their bodies. 

When we lay down our hidden agendas about how we think our children should be eating and break away from our internalized food rules, we give our children permission to trust themselves and their bodies, to learn how to eat and trust themselves in the absence of rigid food rules.

Children don’t become healthy by being compliant to our wishes for how they should eat or by obeying the arbitrary rules set down by diet culture. 

They become their healthiest selves when we give them permission to have full autonomy over their own bodies and to learn how to become the best experts of themselves. Nutrition is most optimal when our children build positive associations with eating in the context of a trusting feeding relationship with their caregivers. 

When they feel safe to eat and explore a variety of foods, they’re better able to eat in accordance with what their bodies need to thrive. This is only possible when mealtimes are safe and eating environments are constructed in a positive way. 

All of these things aren’t possible in the vacuum of diet culture and food rules. Hidden agendas directly compete with our ability to trust our children and to give them full permission to eat and enjoy foods wherever they’re at. 

As we break away from diet culture and learn to feed our children outside the confines of a restrictive eating environment, we’re able to support our children in becoming the healthiest version of themselves: physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

All of this is hard work. 

As a mother raising 5 children and in the trenches of fighting diet culture alongside you, I understand that. I also want you to know that you’re not alone. Together we are working to end the legacy of diet culture in our families and parent from a place that doesn’t perpetuate the lies of diet culture around food and their bodies. 

Let’s be committed to raising a generation of children who know: 

-Their worth has nothing to do with a number on the scale

-They deserve to take up space

-Food is meant to be nourishing and pleasurable

-Their mental health matters

-Their appearance is the least interesting thing above them

All of this is possible through the work you’re doing in parenting and feeding without diet culture. 

What Feeding Without Diet Culture Doesn’t Mean:

As we talk about this, it’s important to discuss what this doesn’t imply. 

You see, when parents hear me talk about this, there can be some misunderstandings around these messages, so I want to be sure to clear any misconceptions. 

There’s often an idea that letting go of diet culture rules means “not caring”. That we should just let our children eat whatever they want whenever they want it. That we shouldn’t care about the foods they put in their bodies, that what we feed them is unimportant. 

However, this could not be any further from the truth. 

Letting go of any internalized rules around how we might feed our children or ourselves doesn’t equivicate to not caring about what our children eat or not providing them with the structure and support they need around food. Enjoying freedom with food doesn’t mean chaos around food or having a nonchalant attitude toward food in our home. 

Raising intuitive eaters means providing our children with leadership with respect to structure around food.

This is actually a HUGE component of helping children become competent eaters and learn to trust their bodies. They need us to take the initiative with offering regular meals and snacks in our homes and with proactively providing a variety of foods, including those foods that may have previously been off limits. 

We need to deliberately include the foods they LOVE to eat and show a higher level of interest in alongside foods they’re still learning to eat, like maybe vegetables, anyone? 

What’s important to see is that it’s possible to offer structure and support without being rigidly tangled in food rules. 

We provide leadership by deciding what foods we’re offering our children and when we’re feeding them (while taking into account their preferences and foods they like), and within the context of that structure, giving our children autonomy and allowing them to eat what they want (and how much of what they need to feel satisfied) from the foods we’ve offered. 

So you can see how this approach is much more supportive than simply just putting our hands up and letting our children eat whatever they want whenever they want. That’s not actually a helpful way to approach food in our home, for ourselves or our children either. 

Enjoying freedom with food in your home shouldn’t feel like chaos or confusion. And the solution for letting go of rigid rules around food doesn’t mean letting our children have free rein of the pantry and the fridge, where anything they want to eat is completely at their disposal whenever they want it. 

Feeding our children free from the constraints of diet culture means we’re closely examining the lens through which we feed and being aware of those subtle (or not so subtle) rules that creep in and often inform the way we can feed our children. 

For example, maybe you’ve had an engrained food rule that sweets are bad and sugar should be limited, so you offer your child minimal sweets or don’t even keep sweets in your home. The solution to breaking this internalized food rule is not to just buy every sweet in the world and let your child eat as much sugar as they want whenever they want. 

Approaching the breaking of a food rule in a supportive way might look like proactively buying sweets more regularly, keeping them in your home, and intentionally offering them to your child alongside their regular meals and snacks. We include the foods they show a high interest in within structure. 

See the difference there? 

This is why I want to clear this up, because as you consider moving away from food rules in your home and feeding your children outside the context of diet culture, I want you to understand this doesn’t mean inviting chaos into your home. This is about providing structure and support in a positive way that sets up your child for the best opportunities to learn about food and their bodies. 

Other common food rules often revolve around when we can allow our children to eat certain foods or what foods we may or may not allow in our homes. 

Disrupting these food rules can be one of the most powerful steps you take toward feeding your children outside the constricting confines of diet culture.

How to Start Feeding Your Kids Outside of Diet Culture Rules

So let’s get really practical here. What might this look like in your home, and what are tangible steps you can apply when feeding your own children? 

We talked about the importance of first identifying what food rules you might be abiding by. This is a great step to understanding what areas you might need to work through. 

Other areas to think about might be: 

  • What foods are you worried about keeping in your home, and where does this fear come from? 

  • How do you approach feeding your children? Is it from a place of fear or a place of trust? Are you avoiding offering your children certain foods for fear of the quantity they’ll eat or how it might affect them? 

  • Do you prevent your child from encountering certain experiences because of fears around food or their bodies? 

Engrained food rules that can be projected in feeding children can look like things like the following: (Clues – extreme approaches to food or rigid thinking can be part of this). Things like,

  • Only allowing desserts on certain days or after eating certain foods (like vegetables)

  • Not allowing white breads, pasta, etc

  • Cutting out or limiting foods or entire food groups (like carbs, fats)

  • Rules around processed foods, packaged or frozen foods

  • Attempts to control your child’s body size through your feeding approach

When it comes to raising healthy kids, there’s no shortage of rules on what we should be feeding our children.

Again, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the quality of food we feed our kids.

But when the WHAT of feeding our kids becomes more important than HOW we feed them, this can lead to power struggles with food.

You see, feeding our children is more than a transaction (i.e. We give them food and expect them to eat it). It’s about the relationship we’re building with them, and at the heart of all healthy relationships is TRUST.

Food is more than nourishment. It’s about connection & comfort. It’s finding a way back to each other after a long day. It’s ordering pizza on Friday nights and sharing slices over your favorite board games. It’s going out for ice cream cones on a hot summer day or teaching your kids how to bake your grandmother’s favorite cookies together. It’s finding pleasure in all foods without a side serve of guilt and shame.

On the foundation of trust, our kids can build a healthy relationship with food. 

When your children TRUST food is safe and they get reliable access to a variety of foods, they can build positive connections to food and learn to trust their bodies. Positive connections with food are key for a positive relationship with food, and we don’t want to sacrifice that for arbitrary food rules perpetuated by fear and diet culture.

When worries around food not being “good enough” are holding you back from enjoying eating together as a family, it’s important to step back and ask yourself – is this really healthy?

Helping our kids have a healthy relationship with food goes beyond the food itself. 

As the saying goes, “when the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers”. Meaning, when striving to be healthy starts to create anxiety, fear or guilt around food, then nutrition will start to suffer. We can help support our children’s health without the fear-mongering around food.

Dismantling food rules might look like allowing your children to have their favorite fruit snacks alongside the breakfast you made because you’re being intentional about normalizing the foods your child shows a higher interest in. 

Or it might look like proactively buying foods that are demonized by diet culture and bringing them into your home because your child’s been asking about them. Maybe you’re incorporating sweets more regularly and offering a dessert with dinner because you don’t want to keep all things sugar up on a pedestal. 

From the outside perspective, these things may be promoted as “unhealthy”, “ruining your child’s health”, and all the other lies diet culture perpetuates around food. Let me reassure and encourage you here, my friend. It might feel counterintuitive because it’s countercultural: counter-diet culture. 

But intentionally dismantling food rules in your home and offering your children safe experiences to learn how to eat and enjoy a variety of foods (without a side serve of diet culture shame) will afford them the opportunities they need to grow up to have a healthy relationship with food. This is what it means to raise an intuitive eater: to counteract diet culture by being intentional about creating a positive eating environment in your own home and through your interactions with your children. 

This may look different from one family to the next, but any time you’re taking a brave step toward dismantling food rules, you’re choosing to end the legacy of diet culture and stop it from cycling through another generation. 

This is what it looks like to be a diet culture dropout.

Instead of clinging to past food rules, choose to create a new foundation for your family. 

So as a non-conventional, diet culture dropout dietitian, here are some of my top tips on feeding kids outside of the damaging parameters of diet culture: 

  • Focus on the relationship you’re fostering between you and your child: Remember it’s more than just food. Feeding is more than a transaction, it’s a relationship. Build a trusting feeding relationship between you and your child.

  • Legalize all foods: Seriously, diet culture loves to demonize food, especially sweets and packaged snacks. Legalize all foods in your home – particularly the ones your children are showing a high interest in, and take the initiative to offer them regularly alongside your children’s meals and snacks to prevent feelings of deprivation or obsession around them. For more on this, check out this post here: “5 Reasons Why to Offer Your Kids Sweets Before They Ask For Them

  • Shut down food and body shaming: If we want to raise children who are resilient to these diet culture LIES, we have to wake-up and be aware of where it hides. We need to call it out for what it is and demand better for our children. When your children see you shutting down negative food talk and body shaming, they’ll take your lead and learn to do the same.

  • Language – how you talk about food: Be aware of how you talk about food and strive to use neutral language when talking to your children about food and their bodies. This includes how you talk about yourself eating and your own body in front of your children. Be sure to read this post here for more helpful phrases to use with your children to help you raise intuitive eaters. 

  • Actively dismantle food rules: Model and focus on food neutrality, don’t assign a moral value to food. Remember, there’s no such thing as “good” versus “bad” food, and categorizing food in this way creates a hierarchy around food in a child’s mind, making it difficult to respond and trust internal cues for eating. 

Learning to be a diet culture dropout and feed your children outside the parameters of food rules can feel daunting, even counterintuitive at times. However, trust yourself through the process and remember this isn’t about perfection. This is about progress toward freedom with food as a family.

You and your family deserve to enjoy freedom with food together.

What are your thoughts? Be sure to share in the comments below!