How to Say No {Nicely} to Food Requests


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How to Say No {Nicely} to Food Requests

Learn how to say no to food, nicely. Set your boundaries and help your child regulate his eating.

Margaret found herself faced with the same dilemma day after day: her kids were asking for extra snacks.

Should she say yes? That’s not what she wanted to do.

She questioned herself, “Are they really hungry?” She didn’t think so, but she didn’t want to be mean and say “no.”

These mental gymnastics are common among parents. They don’t want to be mean, yet their instinct is to tighten the reins.

How to Say No to Food

Saying “no” is setting a boundary. And, when it comes to food and eating and the kitchen…well, saying “no” can be a powerful strategy in your feeding toolbox.

Margaret needed to learn how to say “no” to food requests, and here’s why:

Not only would a denial help Margaret stay sane {and calm, and less frustrated}, but it would also help regulate her child’s health, especially since she was getting a lot of extra food requests.

So the question is…how do you say no to food nicely?

say no to food

Saying Yes is Easier than Saying No

When you say “yes,” you may get some important and compelling feedback. Number one, you make someone else happy—your child—and it makes you happy to see him happy.

Secondly, you get affirmation of your value, or worth. “You’re the best, Mom!” And that makes you feel good—and worthy.

Of course, your “yes” to food can be motivated by other hoped-for outcomes—fewer conflicts and less drama from your child. Or, peace of mind that you’ve covered any hunger he or she might be experiencing.

Yes, saying “yes” brings on all kinds of feelings.

But, it can also open Pandora’s box.

“Yes, I’ll make you what you want for dinner, I knew you didn’t like this anyway.”

“Yes, you can have something to eat. Let me get it for you”

“Yes, you can have another piece of candy.”

Is a Frequent “Yes” a Good Thing?

A frequent “yes” to your child’s food requests may be aligned with an indulgent feeding style. When it comes to food and feeding, a permissive style may play out like this:

Your child asks for an extra snack, you say yes.

Your child wants more dessert, and you say yes to avoid the meltdown.

Your child doesn’t like dinner, so you make an alternative meal for her—best thing to do if you want to preserve some semblance of peace at the table, right?

The biggest problem I see with the indulgent feeding style is that it may interfere with a child’s on and off valve around eating. As a result, poor eating habits, overeating unhealthy foods, and potential weight problems may arise.

Also, all these “yeses” –or accommodations for your child– can be frustrating for you, diverting your attention from other important things and placing you at the beck and call of your child.

So, instead of saying “yes” when you really want to say “no,” or when you know you should say “no,” remember that “no” is a healthy boundary and has a place in your feeding approach.

How to Say “No” Nicely

Inevitably, you will be faced with different food scenarios where you may want or need to say “no,” but how do you this nicely?

Here are some common scenarios and suggestions:

1. When your child asks for more food {and he’s not hungry, or just ate}

“The kitchen is closed right now, so I can’t get you another snack. But, the good news is that it will be open at 3 pm—in just a little bit.”

2. When your child asks you to bake, cook, or start another food activity in the kitchen when time is tight

“I would love to help you out sweetie, but I am in the middle of something else right now and I really want to finish it. Can you wait a bit?”

3. When your child asks for unplanned sweets

“These are special occasion foods and guess what? Today isn’t a special occasion day…but this weekend is! We can have dessert then. I, for one, can’t wait!”

“That’s not on the menu for today. Let’s look for a time when we can include them.”

4. When your child doesn’t like what’s for dinner

“I know you aren’t fond of this meal. I tell you what, why don’t you write down a list of your three favorite meals and I will try to work those in over the next week or two.”

5. When your child complains about food options

“Boy, the complaining about food is really hard for me to hear. I work really hard to make nutritious food available for our meals. Let’s stop complaining and be more proactive. Would you write down some foods you want me to purchase at the grocery store, please? That would really help me know what to buy next time at the store.”

6. When your child is melting down because you said “no” to a food request

“Oh honey, I can see that you aren’t happy.“ {Smile, give a little hug, and move on.}

7. When your child refuses to eat what you made for dinner

“This is the menu for tonight. I’m sorry you don’t like it, but I’m sure you can find something on the table to eat.”

When do you need to say “no?” And, how do you say “no” to food nicely?

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