You’re On Your Own [YOYO] Meals and Building Healthy Eaters

You're on Your Own (YOYO) Meals & Building Healthy Eaters

We have a term in our house called YOYO. In a nutshell, it’s code for “you’re on your own.”

I announce this periodically.

I’ll say, “Tonight’s a YOYO night,” or I’ll say, “I have a meeting so it’s a YOYO night.”

Everyone in my family knows exactly what this means.

What is a YOYO meal?

For us, YOYO meals refer to independence at mealtime. YOYO means you’re in charge of making your own meal or snack. It could be used at breakfast, lunch or dinner. And since I have older kids, it’s frequently used for snack time.

YOYO, aka, ‘make it yourself’ gives me a break from preparing, cooking…thinking about food. And let’s face it—we all need a break sometimes.

Don’t confuse YOYO with uninvolved feeding—or the feeding style that places very low priority on food and eating — that is not the intent at all. There are boundaries and expectations with YOYO, which is consistent with being an authoritative feeder, something we should all strive to be.

YOYO meals are definitely not a free for all, after all. I set parameters around what is available to eat, which could be leftovers (usually), breakfast for dinner or another simple meal idea. I just let the kids decide what they will eat and they are in charge of preparing it (and cleaning up!).

You're on Your Own (YOYO) Meals & Building Healthy Eaters

When used wisely, YOYO meals encourage building healthy eaters:

1. Kids Practice and Perfect Skills:

Letting the kids have a YOYO night for dinner, or any other meal, for that matter, let’s them experiment, create, and practice their skills at food combinations, cooking and cleaning up.

2. Kids Build Independence and Confidence:

With YOYO meals, kids get better at navigating the kitchen independently and confidently. Not only do they get better at feeding themselves, they become confident over time in choosing foods to eat.

One way to bring more independence in meals is to let your child pack his own lunch. It’s a great place to begin shifting some of the meal prep to your child, while guiding them in their food choices.

3. Kids Get that Restaurant Feel:

If you think that it takes a restaurant to satisfy each individual family member’s preferences, think again.  YOYO meals can do the same! Because YOYO meals are generally not the same “one meal for all,” your child can have the meal he or she wants, much like eating at a restaurant.

4. Kids Eat Uncomplicated Meals:

Kids tend to choose to make simple food items, or they may heat up leftovers and add some fruit or veggies to the meal. Overall, meals can be uncomplicated, but they may be messy, especially if your child decides it’s time to experiment in the kitchen. If mess bothers you, read the post about My Kitchen Clean-Up Method.

5. My Break, My Sanity: 

YOYO gives me a night off. Often, I pair YOYO with Must-Go Night, as it’s easier on the kids. They aren’t old enough yet to prepare a gourmet meal for the whole family, but they do pretty well for themselves (especially the older kids).

I know as a parent and a child nutrition expert, you need to have a feeding strategy that works—this is just another way to help your kids learn and grow. For more information on setting up a food system and feeding strategy for your family, check out my flagship course, The Nourished Child Project.

How are you building healthy eaters and create breaks for yourself from cooking and meal planning?

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  1. My mom used to call it “Scavenger Night” and I think she basically used it to clean the fridge of any leftovers from the week so there was less waste. We got to create meals from leftover and pantry items, or just simply reheat something that we enjoyed early in the week.