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YOYO Night: ‘You’re On Your Own’ for Mealtime

This post was originally posted in August, 2018 and updated April 11, 2020.

We have a term in our house called YOYO Night. In a nutshell, YOYO stands for “you’re on your own,” and it means that you make your own dinner.

Of course, this term could be used for any meal for snack.

child holding tomatoes in YOYO Night: You're on Your Own for Mealtime

I announce this periodically to my family.

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.

How a YOYO Meals Can Help

For us, YOYO meals refer to independence at mealtime. It 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…and thinking about food. 

And let’s face it—we all need a break sometimes, especially when you’re feeling burnout.

What YOYO Night is Not

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 a diplomatic feeder, something we should all strive to be.

YOYO meals are definitely not a free for all.

I set parameters around what is available to eat, which could be leftovers, breakfast for dinner, or another simple meal idea.

I let the kids decide what they will eat and they are in charge of preparing it (and cleaning up!).

YOYO Night: 'You're on Your Own' for  Mealtime

5 Ways YOYO Meals Support Healthy Eaters:

Using the concept of YOYO meals can help your child in many ways, while giving you a bit of a break, too. Here are 5 important ways YOYO meals can lend you a hand in the food parenting department.

1. Kids Get to Practice Cooking Skills

Letting the kids have a YOYO Night, or for any other meal, lets 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 Make and Eat Uncomplicated Meals

Kids tend 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. A Break for Mom 

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, if you really want to raise a healthy eater, you need to have a feeding strategy that works. 

Using a YOYO meal can be a tool in your overall strategy.

Have you used a YOYO Night?

For more information on setting up a food system and feeding strategy for your family, check out my flagship course, The Nourished Child Project.

slow cooker rubbed and pulled pork with onions

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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.