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  • Writer's pictureRhea Lewandoski R.D.

Food Neutrality

Author: Rhea Lewandoski R.D.

Pancakes with fruit

Growing up you may have been exposed to the concept that some foods are “good” and some are “bad”. This is a common message in our society. The result, however, is putting foods into categories, which can sometimes lead to fear or anxiety around certain foods, food categories, timing of foods etc. Labelling foods in this way can also put some foods on a pedestal, creating a draw to the ones seen as “forbidden” or “off-limits”, and then foster a feeling of shame when we “give in” or “indulge” in these pedestal foods. This is often not the “cause” of an eating disorder. However, with the perfect storm, inflexible beliefs, language, and behaviours around food can lead to disordered eating behaviours or an eating disorder.

Food neutrality offers a way to put all foods on an equal playing field and see them for what they are: food.

You will find below some tips on how to begin to challenge the beliefs you have and the language you use around food to help guide you towards a healthy food relationship.

1. Food holds no moral value: foods do not have their own set of morals or values. Food is food--it’s our culture that has created the dichotomy of good and bad.

2. Your food choices do not reflect the kind of person you are: just like food isn’t good or bad, you are not good or bad for the foods you choose to eat. Our food choices are based on many things, such as preferences, cultural background, food access, budget, geographic location, etc. The foods you eat can be part of who you are, but they do not define you. We can work on challenging the biases we have about food choice. A key piece in this is self-compassion.

3. Foods serve different purposes: food is more than fuel--it is meant to serve us in many different ways. While it absolutely provides nourishment, it also provides comfort, pleasure, connection, tradition, and more. It is valid to eat foods for all different reasons, and foods that meet the needs of comfort or pleasure are not “worse” than those that meet the need of nourishment. One food or meal can also meet multiple needs. We can start to explore this by naming the needs we are meeting. E.g. a meal with perogies (I am Ukrainian) can meet the needs of nourishment, comfort, tradition, and connection.

4. A single food cannot be healthy or unhealthy: behaviours, habits, and thought patterns can be healthy or unhealthy, but a single food says nothing about our health. Since health is influenced by many things other than food (e.g. genetics, social supports, environment, oppression, income, etc.), these labels are not usually helpful. For example, vegetables are typically considered a “healthy” food, but if that is the only food someone eats, their health will most likely be impacted (physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially). A food like cake is typically labelled as “unhealthy” but enjoying cake you like, at a loved one’s birthday party contributes to health in many ways. Without context, it is really hard to say what is healthy and what is not.

5. Language matters: part of unlearning and relearning what we have been taught about food includes choosing more neutral language when talking about it.

a. Instead of using “healthy”, “clean”, or “good” to describe a food, try “nourishing” or “satisfying”.

b. Instead of using “unhealthy”, “junk”, or “bad” to describe a food, try describing the food more objectively. Terms like “fun foods”, “convenient foods”, “comforting foods”.

c. Try describing food by texture or flavour or simply call food by its name.


BridgePoint Center for Eating Disorders · BridgePoint - Center For Eating Disorders. (n.d.).


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