6 Steps To Bringing Peace Back to Mealtime!

by Dana Snook on March 24, 2014


6 Steps To Bringing Peace Back to Mealtime

by Dana Snook, RDN, CDE, CIC

Raising competent eaters that sit down at the table and behave all while trying new foods is HARD! I can tell you the last two weeks have been a challenge with my little 18 month old toddler. Now, one thing to understand is that she has always been at the table with us. Yes, even at a few weeks old she would be next to our chairs in her bouncy seat. So, it was no surprise that when she was old enough to start on solid foods that she stole the spoon right from my hand and shoved it in. Fast forward 13 months later, my little mobile toddler is still a good eater, but has a serious case of the “Mommy’s.” This leads to her abandoning her meal in hopes of a cozy seat on my lap. I can honestly say, this DOES NOT work for me. I want to sit down and enjoy my meal and that goes away when a toddler is interfering with my eating. It has taken about 1 week of following my own advice and now I have peace back at the table.

It’s important to understand that children want to be good eaters. They want to please their parents, but sometimes they need a little direction to get there. Whether you are raising an older infant, toddler, preschooler or teenager they all in need of a consistent message in order for them to succeed.

If you are someone like me and looking to bring peace back to your family meals, I am going to disclose the 6 steps to help you get there.

1. Always serve one meal at the table with at least two familiar foods. Being a short order cook is so much EXTRA WORK and can be STRESSFUL. As parents we have barely enough time to get 1 meal on the table let alone 2 or 3. Special meals do not teach children to be comfortable around unfamiliar foods. Take the pressure off what they have to eat and allow them the autonomy to pick and choose from what is served!

2. No insulting the Chef! We all have different tastes and preferences; children do as well. As an adult it is important to respect your children’s taste preference by serving a variety of food on the table as I mentioned above. However, it is equally important that they repect the chef. Do not allow words like yuck, gross, or disgusting at your table, this is disrespectful. Children are allowed to express their love or dislike for the food in a polite fashion only.

3. Always provide all meals and snacks at the table.  Children need to learn from a young age what is acceptable behavior at the table. If they never have to sit at the table how will they learn? Remember consistency is key here. Children who eat at the table on a consistent basis behave better and will do better nutritionally then those we do not.

4. Maintain a consistent message. You can’t enforce the rules only sometimes. If one day they have to eat the broccoli and one day they do not, what message is that sending to them? One day they have to sit at the table and the next time they don’t? Make the rules for the family and stick with them even when it gets tough (and, yes, there may be tears!)

5. Serve another meal or snack a few hours later. In our weight/health obsessed society I find some parents are nervous about too much snacking. There is a big difference between “grazing” and “snacking.” Snacks are at predetermined time. I recommend always providing snacks about 2-3 hours after a meal and at least 2 hours before the next meal. This will allow everyone to come to the table hungry, but not famished.

6. Talk to your child. Last, but certainly not least you need to communicate. They need to understand the rules or changes that are going to occur.  Explanations can go a long way and will set them up for success rather than failure.

My biggest lesson of the the last few weeks was that sometimes a few tears have to be shed before we can have peace at our table. By standing by what I teach and some stressful nights things have resolved and again we have PEACE AT THE TABLE!

I’m curious, what is your biggest challenge with feeding your children? Have you been able to resolve it yourself? Feel free to comment below!

Much Love,

Dana Snook


Dana Snook is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intrinsic Coach and Certified Diabetes Educator focused on improving the health and well being of the whole family. She specializes in feeding the family, picky eaters, weight issues and emotional eating.

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