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Stefanie Tsabar

Want peace at your dinner table?


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Is your child always asking for snacks throughout the day? Does it seem like he or she is always hungry?

Like many parents, you may feel like you are constantly fielding snack requests.

There are 2 main reasons why your child might be hungry and asking for snacks all day long.

Problem # 1: There is too much time between meals and snacks.

Solution: Set a predictable DAILY schedule for all meals and snacks.

Preschoolers and toddlers need to be given a meal or snack every 2 to 3 hours and elementary-age kids every 3 hours.

Instead of giving your child a snack whenever she says she’s hungry, stick to your daily schedule and tell her that the kitchen is closed right now, but it will be time to eat soon.

Important note: If dinner is running late, however, do give your child a small snack to hold her over until the meal is ready. For example: apple slices, a granola bar, carrots, etc.

Having a set schedule will help your kids feel calm and safe. Plus, it teaches them how to tune in to their internal cues of hunger and fullness.

For example, by knowing that a meal/snack is close by, they can learn how to feel their hunger without panic. Also, if they are too full to eat, then they can confidently pass on the meal knowing that they’ll get another opportunity to eat in a couple of hours.

Problem # 2: Snacks and meals are not substantial enough.

Solution # 1: Always include protein, carbohydrates and some fat at every meal and snack.

For example: Apple slices with cheese and pretzels, baked chips with hummus, or trail mix with a fruit smoothie.

However, don’t force your child to eat anything. Getting in touch with their bodies’ needs requires that kids get to choose how much they want to eat from what you’ve served.

If they choose not to eat any protein and fat, they may – or may not – be hungry soon after. However, they will learn through trial and error what their bodies are craving.

Solution # 2: Serve enough familiar food so that your child can fill up.

Familiar food is food that your child already knows and likes to eat. It is NOT a recipe that they tried just one time.

When kids have plenty of familiar food to fill up on, they relax and feel safe, knowing that they won’t starve.

Feel free to include new foods as well. However, always make sure there are more familiar than new foods available.

Studies show that when parents serve both familiar and new foods, kids end up trying the new foods more readily.

Their natural desire to grow and experience new tastes and textures get activated, and they feel safe to reach out and try them because they have the familiar foods to fall back on.

Separately, serving plenty of familiar foods allows your child to tune in to his or her cues of hunger and fullness.

Serving a small amount of food will make some kids will feel anxious and experience a false sense of hunger.

However, serving a larger amount in the center of table (rather than on their plate, which can cause them to feel pressured to overeat) gives them the feeling of abundance.

They will feel comforted knowing that there is plenty of food available and that they can eat as much as they’d like without any pressure.

Sometimes, your child will be hungrier than you expected them to be, while other times, they’ll have a small appetite. Instead of guessing, simply prepare enough food for them to decide.

A Week Of Lunch Box Ideas

I know how hard it is to stay motivated packing lunch boxes every day.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a roll and other times it feels like I have no idea what to pack.

Ironically, it’s usually on those hard days that I come up with new ideas or remember good ones that that I’d forgotten about.

I try to use leftovers from dinner, but it’s not always possible.

Either way, I try to focus on packing a decent amount of protein as well as a nice variety of other options. Then, I always include a treat.

Today, I’m sharing 5 lunches that I’ve packed for my son over the past few weeks.

As always, I pack familiar, comforting foods for lunch and save new foods to introduce dinnertime or on the weekends when we all eat together.

Scrambled egg sandwich (held together with a toothpick), blood oranges, edamame, granola bars and dried cherries.

Chickenless Orange Nuggets, apples, chocolate waffle with Earth Balance, yogurt pretzels and pumpkin seeds.

Black bean and cheese taquitos, sautéed carrots, pretzels, pineapple, candy corn.

Baked potato, peas, baked tofu, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chip cookies.

Scrambled eggs with carrots, mix of pumpkin seeds and golden raisins, apples, honey pretzels and candy corn.

Do you ever wish you knew the perfect thing to say when your child is refusing to eat dinner, complaining about the food or just won’t sit down?

Today, you’ll learn simple solutions to 9 of the most common issues that parents face at the dinner table.

Be forewarned, though. You’re kids might resist at first. They will be testing you.

However, keep your resolve, follow these simple solutions and very soon you’ll feel totally in control of dinner time.


Issue: Your child keeps getting up from the table during a meal and then wants to come back to eat more.

Solution: Say, “Honey, dinner is over when you get up from the table. I’ll be serving snack soon.” Or, “Breakfast will be served first thing in the morning.”

Young children should not be expected to sit at the table for more than 10-15 minutes. Allow them to get down once they are done eating, but the meal is over for them once they do get down.

If your child is very young, schedule a nightly bedtime snack to ensure that he or she doesn’t go to bed hungry. However, don’t offer a bedtime snack depending on how dinner went. Either schedule it nightly or not at all.


Issue: Your child constantly begs for a snack in between meals.

Solution: Schedule sit-down meals and snacks every 2-3 hours for toddlers and preschoolers and 3-4 hours for school-aged children. Also, make sure that you offer your kids enough food to fill up on.

If your child doesn’t eat enough and still feels hungry before the next meal/snack, say, “Dinner is coming up really soon. Right now, the kitchen is closed.”


Issue: Your child does not eat enough (or at all) during a birthday party or play date.

Solution: Offer an “appetizer” to hold your child over until the next scheduled meal or snack. Example: a granola bar, apple slices with peanut butter or a banana. Do NOT shame your kids for not eating at the party/play date.


Issue: Your child asks for sweets all day long.

Solution: Start serving a small, child-sized dessert WITH the meal and tell your child, “dessert will be served with dinner, and you can eat it whenever you’d like to during the meal”. For more on ending obsessions with sweets, click here.


Issue: Your child does not eat for almost the entire meal, and then starts to gobble down food as soon as dinner is ending.

Solution: Decide in advance how long you will allot for dinner (30 to 45 minutes is appropriate for older kids). You can set a timer or tell your child when dinner will be over. Do not nudge or force your child to eat. When the time is over, simply announce, “dinner is over” and then calmly clear the table.


Issue: Your child says, “Yuck!” or “I hate XYZ” at the table.

Solution: “You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to eat, but in our family, we do not talk like that.”


Issue: Your child wants more of a particular dish, such as another hamburger/veggie burger.

Solution: Put enough familiar food on the table for your child to fill up on. That does not mean, however, that every dish has to be served in large quantities.

For example, preparing one burger for each family member is appropriate, and then serving perhaps sweet potato fries, corn, and salad on the side are good options to round out the meal.

Say, “you’ve had your serving of “X” and there is no more of that. If you are still hungry, feel free to choose from the other options on the table.”


Issue: Your child doesn’t want to come to the table because he/she is not hungry.

Solution: Say, “You don’t have to eat, but you are part of the family, so I need you to come sit with us for 5 minutes”.

After 5 minutes (set a timer!), allow your child to get down if she’s not eating. However, do not allow him/her to come back to the table to eat (see #1). 


Issue: Your child asks for something else to eat that is not on the table.

Solution: Always make sure that you serve at least one familiar dish (e.g., rice or plain pasta) that goes with the main entree that your child can fill up on in case he/she doesn’t like the new foods.

Studies show that children try new foods more readily when there are both familiar AND unfamiliar foods on the table.

Once you’ve served the meal in this way, however, do not cater to your child’s requests.

Simply say, “No, that’s not an option. We do not make separate meals for each person. You do not have to eat anything that you don’t want to, though.”

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!

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