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Stefanie Tsabar

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Neutralize, don’t restrict

Have you ever considered skipping a birthday party because your child’s tendency to overdo it with the sweets overwhelms you?

Or, what about BREAD and PASTA? Does your child seem to want to eat these these types of foods endlessly?

If so, then today’s blog post is for you!

You will learn how to neutralize all foods so that it’s easier for your kids to recognize (and stop eating) when they’re full, no matter what’s on the table.

The reason for neutralizing rather than restricting foods is that as humans, we are wired to crave things that are forbidden.

If you’ve ever been on a diet, then you understand this perfectly.

The same goes with our kids.

If they feel like the foods they crave are available from time to time, then they release any panic about getting to eat those foods and connect more readily to their body’s needs and true (not obsessive) cravings.

When my son was 5 years old, he would have eaten sweets all day long if I’d have let him. Ditto with bread and cheese.

Now, he’s 9 years old, and a lot has changed.

By assuring him that no foods are off limits, I’ve helped him to tune into his body’s needs more often rather than being swayed by whatever food happens to be on the table.

It’s a process, though. You might see amazing results in one area quickly while other areas take much longer. Hang in there and trust the process. Everything will fall into place.

Here are 3 simple ways to neutralize food.

Serve dessert with the meal.

Most kids see dessert a prize that they want to win. They will do anything to earn it, including overeating and eating foods they are not in the mood for.

For example, when parents tell kids that they have to finish their dinner before getting dessert, they are making an arbitrary assessment about how much and what types of foods their children’s bodies are craving.

In short, they are teaching their kids to ignore their body’s’ signals – all in the name of getting a treat – which can lead to weight gain and a lifetime of dieting.

Instead, neutralize instead of restrict sweets by serving your kids a small child-sized portion of dessert – but no seconds – and allow them to eat it whenever they’d like during the meal.

At the beginning of this process, they will eat it first.

But, over time, as they get used to having a feeling of control over their dessert, they will start to save it until the end of the meal or even go back and forth between the regular food and their dessert.

In essence, when we set a clear and firm boundary with the portion size of dessert and then allow kids the autonomy to choose when they want to eat it, they stop obsessing over sweets.

Serve “forbidden foods” at meals and snacks.

First, what’s a forbidden food? That depends on each family. You know it’s a forbidden food if you don’t want your child to eat too much of it.

For some families, it could be cheese. For another family, it could be bread or pasta or salami.

To neutralize forbidden foods, make a list with your child of their favorite foods. Take the time to make it a fun experience.

Then, buy one or more foods from the list each week and include those foods into your child’s meals and snacks.

For example, if a forbidden food has been cheese, then serve it with family meals a few times each week. When it’s on the table, let your child have as much as she wants of it. Don’t restrict her at all.

If she asks for it at times when it’s not being served, gently tell her that you’ll be serving it again in a few days.

If you offer these foods periodically without judgement, your child will stop feeling restricted. Instead, she’ll enjoy them fully, but in moderation.

Quit the commentary about junk food.

When we constantly tell our kids that the food they are eating – or want to eat – is junk, they don’t lose their craving for them.

They typically want them more.

However, they begin to feel ashamed of themselves when they eat these foods because they know they are disappointing you.

Studies show that shame is toxic and instead of inspiring kids – or even adults – to change their behaviors, shame makes them dig in their heels even more.

They feel so badly about themselves that it seems to be no use to try anything different.

Moreover, when kids think that their parents don’t approve of the food they want to eat, they begin to hide it from them.

At school, they start to trade food with their friends or they will sneak food at home when you’re not looking.

If your child is little, now is the time to get this right. However, you will see success even if you’re child is older and displaying some of these behaviors already.

The answer is to neutralize all foods instead of restricting them by letting your kids enjoy whatever food they are eating without comment.

In general, stock your kitchen with healthy foods and serve forbidden foods from time to time. Then, no matter what is on the table, allow your child to decide how much they want to eat from those choices.

Other articles you may like on this topic:

3 Strategies to Kick Sweets and Snacks Off Their Pedestal
How to Teach Kids to Pass on Sweets (if they’re full)
3 Steps to Ending Kid’s Obsession with Dessert

What we’re eating

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a sample of my weekly menu plan. This is my plan for next week.

As always, I break down both new and familiar foods so that you can see how I choose recipes for each meal. The “new” foods are the ones that my son has not learned to like… yet!

I hope it’s helpful and gives you ideas for how to plan your own family’s meals as well as a few new recipe ideas!

Sunday: DIY Sandwiches

DIY Sandwiches are our go-to Sunday meal. I’m usually baking a lot over the weekend, so by the time dinner rolls around, I’m not in the mood to cook a whole lot!

  • Familiar: Sourdough baguettes with cheese (cow and vegan), sliced avocado, grapes, sliced apples, vegan bacon.
  • New: sliced raw veggies

Monday: Homemade Pizza

I used to use Ezekiel tortillas as the “crust” for my homemade pizzas, but even though my family loved them, we got reallllly bored with those after a while. Now, I use Trader Joe’s frozen Organic Pizza Crusts (they also have a gluten-free crust), which is pretty healthy!

  • Familiar: I let my son choose what goes on his pizza, usually pineapple, black olives and basil or just plain cheese. My husband and I load it up with black olives, tomatoes, red onions and pineapple.
  • New: Avocado and tomato salad

Tuesday: Curry

Wednesday: Quesadillas

  • Familiar: Black bean and cheese quesadillas with whole wheat olive oil tortillas. 
  • New: Roasted acorn squash

Thursday: Best Burgers

Beyond Meat just brought its new vegan burger to California Whole Foods. And, let me tell you, it literally looks, smells and tastes JUST LIKE BEEF. 

My family is now a bit obsessed with them.

  • Familiar: Beyond Meat Burgers with whole wheat buns, sliced onions, cheese with oven fries.
  • New: Sliced tomatoes

Friday: Leftovers or Something Easy!

How to systematize your recipes

Can you believe it’s already the holiday season? I hope you’re having a wonderful time!

Whether you’re traveling, going to parties or staying cozy at home, it can be such a nice sense of relief to get away from your typical schedule.

However, before you know it, you’ll be getting back to the daily realities of life, including cooking dinner every night!

New Year’s Day is in just 11 days.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your recipes and menu planning in order so that  by January 1st you will be excited to cook?!

Today’s video is about how to systematize your recipes so that you can meal plan and cook quickly and easily.

It is the final video in my series How to organize your recipes and de-clutter your mind. In the first two videos, you learned How to Choose the Perfect Recipes and How to Spruce up Your Recipe Collection: The Foolproof Way to Sort Through Your Recipes.

If you feel like you have to force yourself to meal plan every week or that you haven’t found the right system to follow, it could be that you just haven’t learned how to streamline and organize your recipes.

I hope you give it a try! I think you’ll be amazed by how effortless it is to meal plan.

Sending you all my best wishes for the holiday season!

If you have a friend who is in a dinner rut, forward this email to them.They can learn a realistic way to organize their recipes so that they can meal plan successfully.

When it’s 6 pm and you’re exhausted, wouldn’t it make you happy to have dinner come together super fast?

I used to get a pit in my stomach at that time of day because I’d either end up making one of the same boring meals we had all the time or I’d panic about not having any idea what to cook.

That all changed once I figured out how to create a body of recipes that support me.

I learned how to hand-pick recipes that matched my lifestyle and tastes before putting them in order.

In other words, it’s not simply about organizing them in a pretty way. It’s about learning how to dust off, spruce up and pare down your recipes once and for all.

Today’s video is the 2nd video in my 3-part series Organize Your Recipes and De-clutter Your Mind. (Click here to watch video 1: How to choose the right recipes.)

If you are someone who is aching for inspiration and ease when cooking dinner, then I think you’ll find today’s video just what you need.

If you have a friend who is in a dinner rut, share this email with them! They might find the inspiration and guidance they need to create their best recipe collection once and for all.

How to choose the right recipes

Are you someone who constantly buys new cookbooks or clips new recipes, but doesn’t use them as much (or at all) as you hope to?

I can relate.

As a mom who is obsessed with making family dinners as healthy as they are delicious, I know how alluring the promise of a new recipe can be.

However, collecting more and more recipes can stop you dead in your tracks from ever feeling in control of meal planning and cooking dinner.

That’s why I’m so excited to share with you my series over the next 3 weeks called: How to Organize Your Recipes & De-clutter Your Mind.

You will learn how to manage and organize all of your recipes (both new and old) so that they are easy to access, quick to sort through and streamline meal planning and dinner prep – every time!

Here’s a breakdown of How to Organize Your Recipes & De-clutter Your Mind (a 3- week video series):

  • Video 1 (today): How to know without a doubt if a recipe is perfect for you.
  • Video 2 – The foolproof way to sort through your recipes.
  • Video 3 – How to organize your recipes to perfection.

Once you’ve watched today’s video, I’d love to hear what you think about this topic.

Do you relate to feeling overwhelmed by having too many recipes? What are your criteria for deciding which recipes to try, keep or discard?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Do you have a friend who’s struggling with meal planning? Forward them this email. It could help them organize their recipes and cook dinner with so much more ease and freedom.

If you’re like millions of parents, then you are longing to stop catering to your kids every night and start cooking one meal that everybody loves.

We all know how beneficial that is, but one of the most common pitfalls is that moms (and dads, too) tend to get overwhelmed, frustrated and resentful when your kids don’t eat the meal.

As a mom who is vegan with a husband who’s a pescatarian and a son who has always loved meat, I can really relate to this issue. But, I knew I wasn’t alone.

I realized that if this issue isn’t resolved, it would take a major toll on parents’ emotional well-being and their relationship to their kids.

I went about looking for solutions and I couldn’t believe how I went from feeling drained and overwhelmed to calm and confident. It’s not rocket science, so I know it can work for you, too!

So, if you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and resentful when trying to make one meal for your family, today’s video is for you. You will learn 3 strategies to combat cooking overwhelm so that you can cook every night, enjoy the process and support your kids.

Once you’ve had a moment to watch, I’d love to hear what you think about this issue.

Do you relate to feeling overwhelmed and resentful at dinnertime? What are some things that you’ve tried that worked and possibly didn’t work to help you feel grounded, supported and connected?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

Remember, you are going to be cooking for a lot of years. You deserve to find joy in the process.

In today’s video, I’m going to share with you the magical tip for raising healthy eaters.

You will learn how to teach your children to make healthy choices, eat the right amount of food that their bodies’ need, and learn to eat the meals that you serve.

The magical tip for raising healthy eaters that I want to share with you is something I needed to figure out for myself.

I didn’t have confidence that I was making the right choices about how to teach my son to become a healthy eater.

Maybe for you, cooking is a challenge or perhaps you and your spouse don’t agree on how to feed your kids.

You know in your heart of hearts that feeding your child is supposed to be the most nurturing act as a parent, but you realize that it’s gotten far from that reality.

And, you know that if you don’t change something then you might always have power struggles with your kids over food and they might never learn to expand their palates.

But, I know that you are committed to figuring out how to help your child make healthy choices and eat mindfully while at the same time deepening your bond.

And, you’re trying to figure out how to fix your mistakes now so that your kids don’t grow up with the same body image and weight issues that you might have struggled with.

The good news is that the magical tip for raising healthy eaters has been heavily studied and proven over and over again to help kids make healthy choices that feel good to them.

And, any parent can master it.

Watch the video now to get started!

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]


I hope you had a fun Halloween with your little one! I’m sure, like most parents, you have a love-hate relationship with this sugar-infested holiday! 🙂

You’re probably feeling conflicted between letting your child enjoy and savor her candy and wanting to deplete her stash while she sleeps!

I bet you’ve wished that your child would be happy with just a few pieces of candy by tuning in to her body.

Or, separately you’ve probably hoped that your child would make healthier choices in general by choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables.

For years, I would throw away a bunch of my son’s candy at night while he was sleeping. But, it always felt bad, and as he got older, he could tell that his stash was getting smaller!

I felt like the only thing I doing was creating distrust.

Essentially, I was teaching him that he could never be trusted to self-regulate his own eating when it comes to sweets and – perhaps worse – he couldn’t trust his own mother!

None of us wants to engender a distrustful relationship with our kids, so I knew I had to figure out another way.

I finally found 5 ways that help kids tune in to their bodies, whether it’s eating sweets in moderation or choosing to eat more veggies.

This year on Halloween, my son ate some of his candy in between houses while trick-or-treating. But, by the time we got home, he looked through his bag with total excitement and awe, but only ate two more pieces before setting it on the counter for another day.

Honestly, it was SHOCKING! I never knew that that would have been a possibility a few years ago, and I was completely awestruck that the steps I’ve been following work like magic!

In today’s video, I walk you through the 5 ways to help kids tune in to their bodies. They are:

  1. Babies are born tuned in. Understand that they already have the ability to self-regulate. All babies are born knowing when they are hungry or full. And, they learn naturally as they grow up when their bodies are craving familiar and comforting foods versus the adventure of trying something new. So, we are not as much teaching them to tune into their bodies as much as we are helping them to reconnect to their inner cues.
  2. Trial and error. We give our kids so much freedom to try and fail at new things in all areas of life, except when it comes to eating. It’s understandable because we’re all so worried about our kiddos’ health and weight. But, it’s not fair or realistic to expect perfection from our kids at every meal. They need the freedom to make (a lot of) mistakes because it’s the only way they’ll learn to truly tune in and listen to their bodies.
  3. Division of Responsibility. A division of responsibility means that parents and children have distinct jobs when it comes to food. Parents have “feeding jobs” and kids have “eating jobs.” Parents’ jobs are WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE, and kids’ jobs are: HOW MUCH AND WHETHER. For example, parents choose a variety of foods to serve and then kids get to choose what they put into their mouths. Children learn how to tune in to their bodies when they are allowed to make choices about what they eat within these safe boundaries.
  4. Daily schedule. Having a set schedule for all meals and snacks allows kids to relax in between meals knowing that another opportunity to eat is coming up soon. And, when they are relaxed, they can tune in to their bodies more readily because they are grounded and present rather than worried about their next snack.
  5. Familiar and comforting foods. Kids will be able to naturally tune in to their bodies when they are given food that they are already comfortable eating. When kids come to the table and see only new food, they have a fight or flight reaction and either lose their appetites completely or start whining due to anxiety. But, if they feel supported at the table by seeing familiar foods, then they also are more likely to try new foods more readily.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]


If you’ve got a child who is reluctant to try new foods, then it’s probably causing you a lot of stress.

You might worry about her health, get frustrated that she doesn’t eat the food you prepare or feel anxious watching her struggle so much.

As you know, your child’s pickiness is also causing him or her a ton of stress.

Not only is she worried about finding something to eat at a restaurant or party but she also knows that the issue causes mom and dad to be anxious. And, no child wants to be the cause of her parents’ upset.

The good news is that there are a few easy things you can do right away to start resolving your reluctant eater’s anxiety and help her expand her palate. Here are 3 quick tips to get you started:

1. Forget about “new” foods for a while.

Once a child is anxious about food, the most important thing is to reset her sense of safety. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply, forget about trying to expand her repertoire for the time being and serve familiar and comforting foods for her at every meal. (Tip: Enlist your child to make a master list of all her favorites.)

I recommend packing school lunch and snacks with comforting foods, and at dinnertime, serve enough comforting food for your child to fill up on. You’re welcome to include a new dish, but don’t make it in hopes that your child will try it just yet.

2. Stop talking about food.

The more you focus on food, the more your child will feel anxious (even if your intention is to help him). Less compliant children will whine or throw a temper tantrum, but more sensitive kids will lose their appetites, get anxious and feel guilty for letting down mom or dad.

Here are 3 important DON’TS to keep in mind:

  • Don’t offer your child (or ask him to try) the new dish. He’ll ask you to pass it when he’s ready.
  • Don’t make any comments about how good the food tastes or smells.
  • Don’t many any comments about what he eats or doesn’t eat.

Once you get the hang of it, your child will relax and reach out on his/her own to try something new. You will be shocked! But, it will happen. 

3. Plan, Plan, Plan for eating out.

An anxious child does not like surprises and most of these kids will verbalize their concerns repeatedly.

My son is an incredibly adventurous eater now… BUT in the past, he had a huge amount of anxiety over food. Before going out to eat, he would always  ask me in a panic, “what will happen if I don’t like anything at the restaurant?”.

Here’s what I’ve found to help when going out to eat:

For restaurants:  Pull up the menu online before going anywhere new and go through the menu with your child. If you legitimately cannot find something he’d like, go somewhere else or bring him something to eat from home.

For parties: Call the host in advance to see what the menu will be and offer to bring something that will fit in with the menu and also be comforting to your child.

So, to recap: 1) Forget about “new” foods for a while, 2) Stop talking about food and 3) Plan, plan, plan for eating out.

Some kids are just naturally more hesitant in all areas of life, and it’s important that they never feel like we are pushing them out of their comfort zones. 

They will naturally become curious to try new foods once we stop trying so hard and instead help them feel comfortable where they are today with their familiar foods.

I hope these quick tips help you and your reluctant eater find more peace at the dinner table. For more on this topic, check out my post 10 Mistakes Well-Meaning Parents Make at Dinner.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]


Meal planning is deceiving.

I’ve worked with incredibly talented home cooks and food bloggers. And, I’ve also worked with moms who considered themselves “terrible” cooks – parents who didn’t have confidence cooking or those who started hating cooking only once they had kids!

All parents have the same challenge. What do I make for dinner tonight?! How do I plan and prepare a healthy meal that everyone in the family will enjoy in a way that reduces my stress and time in the kitchen?

The problem is not about the recipes or our cooking abilities. What’s really at play is multilayered and complex and varies from family to family.

Everything from worrying about wasting food because of a picky eater to being utterly exhausted after a long day to follow through on a set menu plan are just a few things plaguing parents.

What ultimately helped me overcome my angst over meal planning and serve meals I was proud of was to create a plan that I could follow no matter how tired I was.

It is my free Family Meal Planner PDF, and it has 2 simple parts:

  1. Make familiar – even repetitive – recipes the central focus of dinner.
  2. New recipes should be considered a bonus, NEVER the main attraction.

My planner helps you accomplish both of these. It also takes all the guesswork out of planning dinner, ensures that everyone will eat, and guarantees that you will feel less stressed every night!

I shared my Family Meal Planner PDF on the blog this summer. IF YOU DIDN’T TRY IT OUT THEN, I HAVE A CHALLENGE FOR YOU.

Download your copy right now, fill it out and then use it to make dinner for one or two nights. Then, leave a comment telling me and the other readers what worked, what you learned and how it felt.

I hope you give it a try. You might think it makes common sense… but, have you actually filled out the worksheet and followed it through? That’s my challenge for you. Download your copy now and try it.

GIVEAWAY: To incentivize you even more, I am giving away one free 60-minute phone consultation with me to the person who gives the most detail about their experience with my planner. The deadline to leave your comment is Sunday, Oct. 16 at 11:59 pm. I will email the winner on Monday.

I guarantee that you will be more confident and less stressed if you follow the planner. Download your free Family Meal Planner PDF now. (Here’s a sample of my planner for this week.)


[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]