Food judging: we are all familiar with it and are likely guilty of it ourselves. Let’s explore its damaging repercussions and why there’s no room for it in our lives.


Food is a powerful connector that can bring people together. On the flip side, food can also be a point of contention with the potential to instill feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or anxiety. Judgement around food is pervasive but that doesn’t mean we should be OK with it.

Sometimes, it’s a side-eyed look when the server brings your food to the table, or an off-hand comment or observation. At times, one may barely notice, while at other times, we may want to say: “Why yes, thank you for telling me what I already know….I did order a basket of fries for my meal and I did happen to eat all of them.

What are the many reasons that we choose to eat what we eat?

  • We’re physically hungry.
  • We’re with friends or family or it’s a special occasion.
  • It’s a mealtime and food is there and it’s been a few hours since we last ate.
  • We’re feeling a little emotional…tired/lonely/anxious/happy/[fill in the blank]
  • We’re celebrating and there’s birthday cake lying around.
  • We want to try something new.

And, stop if you’ve heard this one before….

It tastes good.

No one needs to apologize for eating a food they enjoy. A single meal does not in any way, shape or form, reflect the overall quality of one’s diet. It’s impossible for others to know how a person typically eats, nor do they know any personal circumstances that may have contributed  to their food choice.

Another important reason to not pass judgement on someone for the food they eat: we have no idea what their past history is or where they are at in their relationship with food.

If there is an underlying anxiety, disordered thoughts and behaviors, or emotional triggers being suppressed, passing judgement can be incredibly damaging. A passive comment may lead someone to replay their evening over and over in a negative light. It can cause that person to obsessively re-analyze the menu and mentally kick themselves for a moment of perceived weakness, then trudge off to the gym to sweat it out with a couple hours of cardio.

The food police mentality that persists in our culture is one that leads to polarizing behavior that serves no one. Simply put, it’s never anyone’s place to shame you or make you feel scrutinized.

I’m not judging your food, and it’s not necessary to judge mine.

Pass the fries, please.


Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD is a Kansas City-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals jumpstart their journey to wellness. By breaking the cycle of dieting, Cara focuses on creating sustainable lifestyle changes for people who are motivated to reclaim their health. Connect with Cara over at Street Smart Nutrition.