Four Words to Eliminate from Your Food Vocabulary
The way we talk about food matters. In today’s society, you’re not likely to go a day, let alone a few a few hours without hearing people talk about food in way that stems for diet culture. People talk about how they are “trying to be good”, how they don’t eat “processed food”, or general comments about what they, you or other people are eating being “healthy” or “unhealthy”.
While I don’t blame us for using this language – it’s such a part of normal jargon these days – I believe it is important to reflect on how our language may make us or other people feel about what we choose to eat.
Here are a few words I would love to see removed from our food vocabulary:
There’s no doubt that “clean eating” is trendy. But what does it actually mean? Who really knows? There’s no formal definition! I will give the people who coined this term the benefit of the doubt that they had honorable intentions: encourage people to eat more whole, unprocessed food. While there’s no doubt that whole foods are nutrient-dense and beneficial to our bodies, this term has unfortunately morphed into a perpetuator of diet culture. “Clean”, can mean anything from eating more whole foods like whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, to more extreme definitions that include elimination of several food groups such a dairy and grains. It can also mean snubbing any food that contains more than five or so ingredients and/or ingredients names you can’t pronounce. Why is this harmful? Well first of all, eliminating entire food groups from your diet, unless you are intentionally trying to figure out out a digestive issue while under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian, is not the going to help your health. Things like dairy and grains provide our bodies with important nutrients, which can be tricky to replace with other foods. Secondly, by calling a food “clean”, we are judging it, and the eater by extension, to be superior, and I would argue morally superior than foods that are not deemed “clean”.Words and language matter. Learn why we need to phase these four words out of our food vocabulary! #wordsmatter #dietculture Click To Tweet
Much like calling a food clean, describing a food as “junk”, “crap” or “garbage” places a huge negative judgement on that food, and by association, the eater. Even if you’re the one calling what you’re eating “junk”, this can easily elicit guilt and judgement
Synonyms include deadly, poisonous, and harmful. I’ve heard this most commonly used in reference to sugar, but the word “toxic” has been used in reference to many other foods or ingredients in the past. A gentle reminder that the dose makes the poison and extreme amount of any one food could be harmful. However, amounts of a food that are typically consumed are in no way dangerous (unless you have a severe allergy). The same goes for sugar. Sure, consuming an excess of highly sugary foods might not benefit our physical health and probably won’t make us feel great, but our body is absolutely capable of breaking down and absorbing these types of foods without lasting effects. No harm no foul.
I should have put this one at the top of the list because it drives me absolutely bonkers. The reason it grinds my gears so much is simple because it’s such an arbitrary term. Literally everything is a chemical! List out all the “chemicals” in a banana and they might sound kind of scary. I think there’s even a popular hashtag of #countchemicalsnotcalories. Yes, to not counting calories, but just because we can’t pronounce an ingredient doesn’t make it unsafe and doesn’t make the food a poor choice. And I’m not saying to stick your head in the sand and don’t be mindful of the ingredient list, after all everyone has their preferences, but let’s try to make informed choices, rather than choices out of fear.
Why I am such a stickler for words and language?
Because words matter. We can’t change the culture if we don’t change how we talk and think about food.
Language is particularly important when we’re talking to kids about food. I believe we can educate children on the benefits and joys of all kinds of foods; both traditionally “healthy” and less nutritious foods, without placing judgement on food. Everyone deserve to have a positive relationship with food, and we are responsible for making this happen.
What do you think? Does language affect how you feel about your food choices?
What are some of the words you would like to see phased our of our food vocabulary?