I was at a convenience store this weekend and overheard a little boy asking his father if he could get a bottle of Bug Juice. His father said, "No, you're not getting Bug Juice, it's bad for you."
It's not that the father said no that bothers me. Children need limits, and as a parent it's always his decision when to purchase or not purchase something for his child. The part that made my heart ache was the message he sent to his child about the juice being "bad."
Children take things very literally. So when this child heard that his favorite juice was "bad" he likely concluded that there is something negative or dangerous about drinking it. [For those of you justifying this in your minds, no, there isn't anything dangerous about drinking juice. It will not cause any harm unless consumed in excessive quantities – a topic for another discussion.]
Over time, this child will continue to receive good/bad food messages like this that imply morality to his food consumption decisions. It sets him up for a lifetime of depriving himself of foods/beverages he wants, overeating when he has the foods he's labeled "bad," and subsequent guilt when these foods are consumed. A viscous cycle to say the least.
My heart aches for this little boy and all of the other children that we are teaching these messages to. When you consider your own relationship with food you may recall times in your childhood/adolescence where you learned similar messages. How are those working for you now? Probably not so great. It's time to stop demonizing food and start enjoying it again. Food is a source of fuel for or body and pleasure for our palate, and there's nothing wrong with either of those things.