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Should We Neutralize Trick-or-Treat?

23 October 2023

With Halloween fast approaching (hey, didn’t they start pushing candy in August?), it seems like a good time to talk about good foods and bad foods. If you know me or have been following my blog, I’m pretty sure you know I don’t believe in putting moral labels on my food. But, as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I do know that foods contribute to our health (or chronic disease) along a spectrum.

If someone asks me, “Is this a good choice?” I’ll always respond, “compared to what?” Now, recommendations have been coming out to talk with kids about all food in a neutral way. They suggest this levels the emotional playing field (and food certainly is a loaded emotional topic). Labeling something as “unhealthful” might add to its mystique…Don’t take a chance; treat every food the same. 

To me, that disregards the fact that some foods are clearly once-in-a-while foods, while others are everyday foods.

I prefer to talk about food in terms of what it can do for our body and mind. We know daily legume consumption reduces our risk of most chronic diseases. We know eating berries is good for our cognitive health. And we KNOW ultra processed food is not the optimal fuel for our body or mind.

Eating unhealthy food doesn’t make anyone a bad person (important: never suggest this in front of a child!). Being overly restrictive in food choice is rarely a good idea. But I do think we need to have some criteria beyond flavor. Taking away judgement of foods might have worked in the 70’s, but we now have so many more food items on the market that bear no resemblance to their whole food counterpart.

Nutritional value does not always correlate to healthfulness; we know that food manufacturers “tweak” the Nutrition Facts by adjusting serving size or fortifying foods that would otherwise be devoid of nutrients. I like the term wholesomeness

What do you think?

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