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Breakfast: The New Family Dinner

Fast Company ran a short article last summer that has stuck with me ever since I read it: “The Delicious Case for Replacing Family Dinners with Family Breakfasts.”  The author, Laura Vanderkam, offered a fresh and different perspective on family meals.  Instead of killing ourselves to sit down to dinner as a family (or as a couple or as friends), why not make breakfast the family meal?

She cites two studies that point to fewer than 50% of American families regularly sitting down to eat dinner together, which isn’t surprising in our perpetually over-scheduled and multi-tasking Western world.  And when they do sit down, it can be a struggle.  My family, for example, tries really, really hard to sit down together most nights.  But it would be a lie to say these meals are without stress, frenzy, and way too many battles over beautifully presented and wholly rejected vegetables.

Breakfast is a different story.  It tends to be easier to be home for breakfast (or headed home post-morning workout).  There’s coffee involved (for the grown-ups).  We generally feel optimistic and ready to start off the day on the right foot, versus bogged down from the day’s events.  And to sweeten the deal, breakfast food is fast and delicious and nutritious and well, pretty uncontroversial.

With a bit of time to spare (because my kids woke up long before the sun did), I treated this morning’s breakfast in our house like a family dinner: placemats, no distractions, and everyone sitting together.  We ate in peace, devouring an egg/ham/spinach/cheese scramble and a banana/berry/spinach/carrot smoothie free of any complaining or fidgeting or baggage from the day.  We talked about what the day might bring.  The devices stayed turned off.  We giggled.  And at the end of the meal, my belly felt full, my soul felt whole, and I felt grounded.

Everyone’s schedules and rituals and circadian rhythms are different, so making breakfast the new family dinner may not work for every person/family.  But I love the spirit of it.  Why not re-frame our expectations of what  family/relationship time is and when it happens — focusing on quality, not when or how we get there?

When you’re ready to belly up to the family breakfast table, here are five breakfast ideas I love:

Bircher Muesli

Steel Cut Oats

Madame Quiche’s Quiche au Fromage

Morning Scramble (eggs, chicken sausage, spinach, red pepper, sprinkle of cheese)

Smoothies w a Boost

Lastly, if you’re looking for a solid foundation for great family eating habits in general, check out this post I read earlier today: 10 Eating Rules French Children Know (But Most Americans Don’t).  It includes some fantastic reminders for all of us (not just the kids).

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I definitely agree with figuring out something that works for you as a family. Sometimes we can be so busy trying to cram our lives into what society says is the ideal or even the norm, that we forget to think for ourselves. We always have our evening meals as a family, although it tends to be an informal supper in the kitchen. Weekday breakfasts though involve husband at gym, me drinking black coffee and water (I don’t get hungry until later), the Little Guy on oats and milk, and our eldest like me, is not so hungry first thing, so often doesn’t bother eating until snack time at school.
    I liked the French kids article too, lots of which we do. I shut my kitchen a lot. Not only so my kids learn that hunger is a natural part of appetite, but also so I get a break from doling out the snacks. 🙂

    January 15, 2014
  2. Interesting. I will read that article. We typically have a family dinner and have a little time in the morning to all be together and talk and I love those days. Although I’m not sure we will all eat together because we do all get hungry ant different times and are on our way out early. I do love your idea of actually setting the table nicely for breakfast– have not done that in years! And could see that for something nice on the weekend when not pressed for time.

    January 16, 2014
  3. rubypearlmt #

    Breakfast for dinner is one of my absolute favorites–I wrote about it here:

    January 16, 2014
  4. LOVE this idea! And really… WHY NOT??? xox

    January 16, 2014
  5. Trails and Ultras #

    I love this… What a great way to start the day! Although I might aim for us to eat together for breakfast and dinner, we can ‘bookend’ that day that way 🙂

    January 16, 2014

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