Food Fight.

There are a lot of things that stress me out every day: getting my kids to school on time, managing the onslaught of daily errands and phone calls, finishing the next chapter of the book I’m writing, thinking about how we are ever going to be able to afford to put two kids through college, let alone ever retire.  But the stress that I feel about these things does not even begin to compare to the stress that I feel about what to serve my children for dinner each and every night.   


I loathe dinner time.  Breakfast is relatively easy, lunch I can handle, but dinner is the bane of my existence.  It’s not just that I don’t like to cook, or that I don’t really have time to cook.  Though both of these things are true, they’re not insurmountable.  No, what makes dinner so unpleasant for me is the nightly battle that I have with my daughter over what, and how much, she must eat.  It generally goes something like this:  she asks me what’s for dinner, and I tell her.  If my answer does not include macaroni and cheese, cheese quesadilla, plain pasta or chicken tenders, her answer is always aww-uh.   And then the negotiations begin.  How many bites do I have to eat?  Will you give me something else if I don’t like it?  Can I have dessert?  Most nights, she ends up hungry, and in tears, and I end up furious and ready to strangle her.  Well, this week, I decided to end it.  Not only do I fear that I am laying the groundwork for a future eating disorder, but I also just can’t take it anymore.


I went on Amazon and ordered two books* on the subject of children and food that seemed helpful.  And when they arrived a few days later, I devoured them the way my daughter devours a plate of plain spaghetti with nothing on it.  And what I learned is that, when it comes to dinner, I have been doing everything one hundred percent wrong.  It turns out that forcing her to try new foods will only make her less willing to explore new tastes on her own.  Similarly, forcing her to eat ten bites of food she doesn’t like in order to get dessert, will only make desserts seem that much more enticing.  I also discovered that, in not always offering her something I know she likes, I am setting the stage for her to begin hoarding food when what she likes is available.  Let me tell you, I’m feeling pretty good about myself as a mother right now.  Oh yeah.



Adina9301 - I'm not sure it's helpful asking if parents have "more serious concerns." Of course people are going to be concerned that their children are eating enough. It's great that you haven't had any issues with your child, but other people experience different situations and this website seems dedicated to helping each other through rough times with advice - not telling people their concerns aren't serious and that they should get over them.


Oddly, I've never forced my child to eat, and yet, she eats enough, and well.

Turning mealtime into drama isn't a good thing, and of course it's going to lead to more eating problems.

Dessert is treated as a special treat, not a course to be expected or a bribe. My only rule is a "no thank you" bite of something new, and there's more if more is wanted. Not surprisingly, my daughter has never balked at trying new foods and likes a variety of foods.

Like the drama of the toddler holding his breath, it's not worth battling over. Don't parents have more serious concerns?


Oh my, I feel relieved to know I am not the only one. My five year old will actually regurgitate his food if he doesn't want to eat it. He has gone to bed many times for puking on my table.


Oh this is so true in my house. Not only is my daughter asserting her independance as a fiesty 2.5 year old, but she will not eat anything. Some days it is 2 bags of fruit snacks and water! I am going to get one of these books and see if they free me from this pit of despair! I love to cook. I also try to not use candy or dessert as a motivator for her - this has been part of my weight struggle, food as a reward. The other part is that my daughter will not ask for more food. I have actually been putting her to bed and hear her stomach growl. She will only tell me if I ask. Thank you for the insight!



If your child is not actively gaining wait, don't sweat the frequency of the meals. Eating frequently can both be a sign of high metabolism and a way to encourage higher metabolism. Make sure what your child eats is power-packed and she may turn out like me - strong heart, great metabolism and thin. My mother had to tell other families that I spent the night with that I could eat much more than they would expect. Elitist families always thought my mom didn't feed me, but we were one of the first black families in our city to go all organic/natural in the eighties because my mom got the great advice to focus on WHAT I was eating and keep the food flowing. I love food, but I don't over eat and I don't crave sweets. I know my mom had to work a lot to keep me fed, but I am happy she did!


I can really empathize. I have three girls, and we do go crazy. I bought a book a bit ago, in September, called "mom-a-licious: fresh, fast family food for the hot mama in you!" Let me tell you this: it changed my life. Changed it. I can make anything in about 25-30 minutes; usually can morph what is in there to fit what I have in my kitchen; and my kids are eating ROOT VEGETABLES for goodness' sake, herbed up and made delicious tasting without masking them in cake, or cookies, or puree. I promise! Try it. It is on my counter - never leaves the counter - because I use it almost every single day. Chef domenica catelli has a great voice and way of making me feel like I can do anything!


I have actually almost completely stopped cooking altogether due to the dinner table stress I was feeling with every meal that I made. Now it's, "what do yall want to eat tonight". Your article has given my the courage to try again... now, if only I could magically cook better... hmmm!


Wow, this is my headache every night.. Cheese pizza, angel hair pasta with butter only, bread or hotdogs is all she wants for dinner! Not sure what happened to this 6 year old that loved my Italian Sausage dinners and chicken entrees. Geese... Every night I have to double-check to see if I have something that I could make for her! I was relieved to read this article because now I know that it's ok to just let it go.. :o) She'll get tired of the same thing every night (I hope). :o)

As a toddler I started to get chubby. My Pediatrician told my Mom, serve her dinner and dessert at the same time, let her choose what she eats and never force her to try or eat anything. As an adult, I have really good eating habits. I rarely over eat and I outgrew being chubby. Ironically I battle with my 3.5 yr old at the table over food and after reading your post am going to try what I grew up with vs what we've been doing. Getting my hubby on board will be challenging though. He grew up with a "clean your plate" philosophy.


This is a big stress of mine right now. I'm always thinking about what I should make my two year old because we don't always eat healthy and sometimes the food is spicy... I am finding some relief because she if she doesn't eat much she'll at least drink a smoothie with juice, banana, flax seed oil and a veggie powder mix. Thanks for your article.