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.



This was a great article. I have the opposite problem in that my child eats constantly and I worry about her weight. Did these books also cover that topic?


This was really timely for me. We've only had dessert in the house for a couple of months (our oldest is just three) and it's already become a game of "how many bites do I have to eat" to get it. I am willing to try putting it out upfront. Thanks for saving me the time of reading these books :-)


As I read your intro, I felt like you were doing a story about our house! My son does the exact same thing every night. As soon as he learns what's for dinner, he immediately asks how many bites he needs to take and whines and moans throughout the entire meal. Then, of course, he doesn't eat a full dinner, and wants a snack 20 minutes later. Thanks for taking the time to do the research and sharing your findings with us. I'll definitely give it a try - and I like the "kitchen is closed" idea. Still, there's a part of me that feels he should learn to eat what we eat. He is almost 6 - at what age do we begin to change those expectations?