Don’t Yuck My Yum! Phrases for Kids to Use When Food Looks Gross

We dish up some polite, open-minded ways for kids to say "My food's OK, your food's OK."

Parker Barry

Kids tend to say exactly what they think about the food people eat and the food served to them. While honesty is usually the best policy, your kid can learn to finesse their sometimes negative responses to food beyond “That looks gross,” and “Yuck!”

On the flip side, if other kids are saying mean stuff about your kid’s food at school lunchtime or during a play date, it’s important that they have some responses at the ready to help them feel proud of what they eat.

We dish up some polite, open-minded ways for kids to say “My food’s OK, your food’s OK.”

If your kid wants to say “Yuck,” suggest instead:

  • “What do you like about it? How did you make it?” Instead of saying “What’s that?” with a look of disgust, kids can ask friendly questions about food with which they’re not familiar.
  • “I’m not fond of….” or “I can’t eat …” It can be OK for kids to speak up when they don’t like or can’t eat a particular food or ingredient — as long as it’s said with polite neutrality. Allergies and dietary restrictions are a real part of many kids’ lives; empower them to speak up when they can’t or don’t want to eat something.
  • “No thank you, I’ll pass for now.” The operative words are “for now.” Forcing kids to try every new food offered to them can backfire. A polite decline followed by a pass “for now” leaves the possibility open that they may want to try it next time.

If your kid’s on the receiving end of some mean words about her food, she can respond with confidence and courtesy:

  • “What’s yuck to you might be yum to me!” Kids love catch phrases, and this one reminds kids to live and let live. We all have different tastes and food experiences.
  • “Don’t knock it before you try it.” If kids love what they’re eating, they can confidently reply to an “Eewww…” with an invitation for the young food critic to try it sometime. (Of course, due to allergies and restrictions kids shouldn’t share food or try food from other kid’s lunchboxes without a parent’s approval.)
  • “I think it’s delicious!” Sometimes exclaiming how much they love what they’re eating is the best, most simple thing kids can do to simmer down mean food talk and go back to enjoying lunch.

Food can be a beautiful way for kids to get to know one another’s family cultures, to try new things, and to have interesting conversations about differences and common ground.  Fancy or plain, spicy or mild, healthy or decadent, as long as kids can say what they mean without being mean, it’s all good.


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