Food Memories

Can you recall what your parents made for you on your birthday? Did you get to go to a special restaurant? Did dad make his fried chicken? Mom bake her butterscotch cake? Nana nibble with you on her world famous peanut brittle?

We never forget our favourite comfort food. They form special memories and create pleasant associations with certain foods, flavours and textures. The layers of meaning have an impact that is much deeper than just taste. They become the way we comfort ourselves, treat ourselves or feel guilty. Here is a perfect example of how the message is really about the medium. Attaching meaning and pleasure to food and creating food memories is a great thing when done with love and awareness. It can also go very wrong.

Some of the warning signs that you may want to pay attention to are:

Do you reach for a sweet for your child when they are sad or suffer a small bump or bruise?

Do you serve dessert nightly?

Do you offer “snacks” in front of the TV?

Do you use the removal of a favorite treat as a threat to garner good behaviour?

Do you turn a blind eye when your child is mindlessly consuming food just so you can gain the few minutes of peace?

The better solution is to create positive associations with foods without using words or emotions. Let the positive experience and process speak for itself.


For instance:

A hug and a snuggle for 5 minutes after a boo-boo lasts much longer and goes deeper into the healing process than any piece of chocolate.

Dessert can signal the end of the work week and the beginning of family time when it is a Friday night special. The net result is fewer empty calories, something to look forward to and a special way of marking time which is something all  human beings need for strong mental grounding.

TV munching is all too common and it can create a lifelong association that can be impossible to overcome. Try to set up the policy of fruit and veggies only in front of screens. If you are going to eat mindlessly, let it have value.

Threats don’t work and they set up power struggles. Just stop.

As for birthdays, they should be special! A cherished treat or special recipe used only for celebrations help tie generations and memories together. They have timeless meaning. Try your very own childhood favourite on your kids and carry on a tradition or make one up. No time like the present.


About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at


Surviving the kids’ birthday party.

March is birthday month in my life. March brings birthdays for both me and Mabel’s Labels. I also have a daughter with a birthday this month.

I recently had a parent ask if I had any birthday party activity suggestions. Just thinking about the question exhausted me. In my 15 years of parenthood, I have had countless birthday parties. Actually, it’s not countless – just adding up my children’s ages tells me that by the end of March, I will have hosted 63 children’s birthday parties. It’s no wonder I suffer from a bit of birthday party fatigue.

We’ve done it all – bowling, indoor playgrounds, parks, magicians, reptile guys, musical chairs and the list goes on. Any way you slice it, at this point in my birthday party throwing career, the novelty has long worn off.

This can help you appreciate that six birthday parties a year is a big ask for someone who does not get inspired by Pinterest and has never baked a cake. Birthday party fatigue started kicking in seven years ago after my fifth child was born. Since then I have simplified things.

Here’s my survival strategy:

  • If I have the party at my house, I do not stress about the state of the place. It’s only going to get trashed anyways. But what will the parents doing the drop off think? Yeah, not really caring.
  • No birthday presents. Guests are instructed that no presents or gift cards are allowed. I make it very clear on the invitation and people respect my request. One mother always brings me a bottle of wine. That, I accept.
  • No loot bags. In return for not bringing my kid stuff they don’t need, I refrain from giving our little guests junk too. The result: less going into the landfill and fewer sugar bugs on the teeth. I might chuck a little something at them by the door as a way to notify our friends that it’s time to hit the road and avoid tears.
  • Birthday party timing is key. Book it for the 2:00pm – 4:00pm time slot, which gets you off the hook for having to provide a proper meal. Get some cake and juice in their gobs, and your work is done!

Go on – do the math. How many birthday parties have you hosted? Some mamas LOVE kids’ birthday parties and some are “meh”. Where do you fall on the birthday fatigue spectrum?


About the Author:

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.