How To End the Mealtime Battles


Mom, I hate your disgusting dinners. This is what I hear from my five-year-old daughter EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. 


Whether I’m making frozen chicken nuggets and canned green beans or an all organic, gluten-free, plant-based meal (I do both and everything in between), I’m learning to find the joy in cooking again. And not just cooking, but in preparing a nourishing and loving meal for my family. 

“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” 
― Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Cooking is a creative outlet, something I fully enjoyed B.K. (before kids). Since having kids, I have often referred to hours between 4-7 p.m. as the witching hours. After talking with many other moms, I know I’m not alone. My kids turn into little gremlins during this time. Cooking became something I dreaded and HAD to do.  

I get it. Everyone is tired and overstimulated after a long day of work, daycare, school, or simply just hanging around the house. Meltdowns are sure to ensue during this time when all you want to do is get some food on the table. 

This has been such a stressful time in my life for so many years, I have developed some anxiety around it. 

Since I am going to have to continue to feed my children and they are going to continue to be gremlins during this time, I have developed some strategies to help me find the joy in cooking again. 

I used to try to watch my favorite soap or listen to a podcast, but I always get interrupted and the noise just adds to the chaos. It just caused more anxiety for me. 

So, now I TRY to be peaceful and mindful of the whole experience. First, I set my expectations very low. I don’t expect them to be well behaved or to love my dinners. I do expect manners and respect and that has been an ongoing battle. 

Is it all peace, love, and kumbaya? Heck no! But we’re on a journey and we’re doing our best. 

Strategies to Help You Enjoy Preparing Family Meals Again

Be Mindful

Set the intention to provide a nourishing meal for your family. Some days, it might not be the most healthful meal, but it will fill their bellies, and you have to let go of the guilt. When you serve food from a place of guilt, obligation or anger, the whole experience is ruined.  

Try this affirmation: 

Hello, kitchen, you are my nourishment center. I appreciate you!

When you go for the gold and prepare a really healthy meal, and they hate it, try not to get upset. You can’t expect them to like everything you make. Do encourage and expect them to be open to new foods, try everything (polite bites) AND be kind and respectful. Kids (and maybe husbands too) need to learn to show gratitude for a meal prepared for them. Try to keep your expectations realistic. They are children after all. This all a process. Trust it. None of this will happen overnight. 

Try this affirmation: 

My family gathers together with great joy and love.

Learn to embrace the process by being more mindful. Try to cut down the external distractions that you have control of. 

If it’s safe and practical, have them play in a room that is not so close to the kitchen so you can enjoy some quiet time. 

Turn off the TV and anything else that is making noise. 

Maybe pour yourself a glass of wine. No judgment here.  

Don’t respond to every text or phone call. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. 

When it makes sense, get your kids involved. Some days that may be more work and just too much for you, and that’s okay. Wait for a day when you have more energy for it. By getting them involved, you get helpers!  

And, of course, get them involved in the cleanup.  

Be Grateful

Appreciate the food. Appreciate where it came from, how it was grown, processed and how it got into your house. This will also encourage you to buy more whole foods.

Try this affirmation: 

I am thankful for all plants, animals, and workers who have participated in my meal.

Be grateful you are able to provide a meal for your family every single day. You know there are so many right here in your community who can’t.  

Try this affirmation:

I am so fortunate that I can choose healthy foods for my family.

Be grateful for lessons you are able to teach your children every single day. Fully embrace your responsibilities as a mom (as exhausting as they are) and consider them privileges, not tasks. 

Try this affirmation:

Every day is a new day filled with joy and health.

Be Patient

Be patient with your kids and especially be patient with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up every time a meal goes south. Accept it for what it is. Learn from it and move on.  

There’s another meal just right around the corner.