The Delicious Case For Replacing Family Dinners With Family Breakfasts

By dinnertime, your family is tired, in a bad mood, and often not together. The morning is another story—and can bring all the benefits of supper, with none of the pain. Plus: waffles!

Parents hear again and again that eating dinner together as a family is supposed to be important for kids.

Studies find that kids who eat with their families are less likely be depressed, and more likely to eat fruits and veggies. Such research may explain why families claim to eat together far more often than they actually do. While one USA Today survey found that 50% of families claim to always eat dinner together, a UCLA study that observed middle-class families found that only 17% actually do. (Both stats can be found in this book.)

Despite our best intentions, dinner is just hard to pull off. Kids have after-school activities, and working parents may not be home until 6 p.m. or later. Someone has to make dinner just as everyone is crashing in the door, harried from traffic and starving. But dinner isn’t the only time a family can have a family meal. In our house, we’ve found that family breakfast has a lot going for it that family dinner just can’t match.

First off, we’re usually all there.

Second, everyone likes breakfast food. Many a family dinner has been marred by fights over broccoli or kale consumption. No one complains about pancakes, waffles, cereal, eggs, bagels, etc.

Third, research into the science of willpower is finding that self-discipline is like a muscle. It gets fatigued from constant use. By dinnertime, everyone has been taxing their willpower all day making decisions and dealing with difficult people. So we’re more likely to be crabby and unpleasant with our loved ones.

But at breakfast? We’re fresh—and able to give our families our best, rather than what’s left over. That’s worth getting up a few minutes earlier.

[Image: Flickr user Steven Depolo]

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  • Carpoolgoddess

    I try to have breakfast with my kids as often as possible. There's not always a lot of chatter, but so wonderful to see their smiling sleepy faces.

  • yeahthatbear

    We do both, typically. It's an incredible luxury. But it's true - getting eggs, pancakes, or beans-and-toast plus some fruit on the table takes 15 minutes, max, and everyone eats with good cheer as every scrap of leisure the morning schedule will allow. Dinner takes longer to make and less time to eat. 

  • Erikgen

    A wonderful solution to the family evening meal is Brinner.  The Breakfast for Dinner concept is nothing new, but perhaps some further exploration is needed.  Breakfasts are often very health - eggs, bacon, orange juice, yogurt.  They can be simple and fast.  But given a little preparation time - you can also take this a couple steps further and add an egg bake, coffee cake, get crazy and throw a scone in there!  As for leftovers - what better way to use up anything in the refridgerator than throw it in with some eggs.  Brinner is the answer.  The question is how many times a week.  I say a minimum of 2!

  • Howsyourlovelife

    We've been doing this for about 6 years now through the school year. I have committed to having a full breakfast on the table if everybody else agrees to meet me there. Three teenagers still get up a little earlier every morning to have breakfast and we start the day on the same 'team'.

  • marykparker

    Or, you can have breakfast for dinner...I used to love that when I was a little kid (because it seemed like such a trick), but my kids enjoy it now as much as I do. And, there's nothing that says you can't have fruit (orange slices, grapefruit, bananas) with your waffles! 

  • JBensous

    You know, all of that is so true. We are all very cranky by the time we get home. Long hours at work, no lunch breaks, long commutes, lots of homework ... no one hardly ever agrees to what they are willing to eat for dinner. It's always a battle. Breakfast on the other hand sounds like a much better way to go - you still get in the quality time , only minus the cranky ... although you might get more of the "I'm not awake yet" drool. :-)