There’s no getting away from it. Because we eat food, it is inevitable that we are going to talk about food.

And because we are all by default, immersed in diet culture, how we talk about food is no longer a neutral subject.


Purple background with text overlay that reads "shifting how we talk about food" feel good eating


Food has become highly charged with labels like:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Clean
  • Toxic
  • Addictive
  • Allowed
  • Not allowed
  • Sinful
  • Guilt-free
  • Cheat meal
  • Naughty
  • Cheeky
  • Dirty
  • Treat

You might have noticed that they are descriptors that have roots in morality. Which would be fine, except that as humans, we tend to internalise these moral judgments about food onto ourselves.

What we choose to eat or not eat becomes an extension of our moral character. Diet culture has taught us to think of ourselves as morally superior if we eat “clean, good food” and we are less than if we eat the food we consider “bad”, “addictive” and “sinful” (For a fascinating exploration of this topic, check Episode 94 of Food Psych with Christy Harrison and Alan Levinovitz).

Food does not deserve to hold that much power over us.


Purple background with text overlay that reads "All food is nourishing. Some foods contain helpful nutrients while others are nourishing our mind/tastebuds/ senses." – Lisa Rutledge feel good eating


shifting how we talk about food


Principle 3 of Intuitive Eating (aff link) invites us to Make Peace with Food – specifically through shifting from judgement to unconditional permission.

Making peace with food means dropping all of those moral labels. Food is just food.

This shift also means that there is no need to classify foods into categories of ‘sometimes’ and ‘everyday’ or ‘more nutritious’ because all food is on the table.

Labels like ‘discretionary’ and ‘whole foods’ become redundant as they continue to add judgement and moralisation to the actual food.

You could try instead:

  • Foods that give me energy
  • Foods that make me feel sleepy
  • Foods that satisfy
  • Foods that take the edge off my hunger
  • Foods that tide me over
  • Foods that give me heartburn
  • Foods that bring my family together
  • Foods that give me the warm and fuzzies
  • Foods that bring me comfort
  • Foods that bring me joy
  • Foods that settle the queasiness in my stomach
  • Foods that are filling
  • Foods that flare up my gout
  • Foods that are nourishing

Note that some of these ways of talking about food aren’t positive – but what they aren’t is judgemental.

They are simply factual.

Eating a food that gives you heartburn doesn’t confer anything about the type of person you are – it just means that you might experience heartburn after eating that food.

Talking about food in this way is also based on an individual’s own internal experience with that food. For example, food that is considered ‘filling’ for one person is going to be different for another person.

They provide information to help inform food choices in the future.


Image of a table top with a large pizza with olives, rocket, cheese, chicken and capers. There is a piece missing and is on a plate in the background


Or you could talk about food in terms of their sensory properties. Like:

  • Crunchy
  • Crispy
  • Soft
  • Hot
  • Chewy
  • Slippery
  • Cooling
  • Refreshing
  • Greasy
  • Hard
  • Mushy
  • Gooey
  • Juicy
  • Creamy
  • Dry
  • Smooth
  • Cold
  • Warm
  • Velvety


Or in terms of their flavour. Like:

  • Salty
  • Sweet
  • Spicy
  • Tart
  • Sour
  • Savoury
  • Earthy
  • Bland
  • Sharp
  • Zesty
  • Bitter
  • Peppery
  • Creamy
  • Strong
  • Mild
  • Fruity
  • Rich

Removing the judgement from how we talk about food is an important part in accepting unconditional permission to eat all foods and ultimately healing our relationship with food.


what are some ways that you would describe food that have nothing to do with moral value?