Few things evoke the festive season as much as food – whether that’s traditional turkey on Christmas day, the famous “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” or the hot chocolate that warms us during the winter months. Here, Family Action Food and Nutrition Officer Gill explains why family mealtimes are also important for a host of other reasons too.
Family mealtimes allow us a shared space to develop our family bonds, they provide us with the nutrition to excel in our work, school and social lives, and they also let us show our love and appreciation for those that matter to us.
Meals can be relaxing and rewarding if taken slowly and not rushed and there are so many benefits to eating together as a family – giving us time to laugh, share problems, communicate, promote healthy eating and role model good behaviours as parents and carers.
And, most simple of all, a meal is just much more enjoyable when eaten together.
It’s a theme we explore in our recent free #MakeTheirsMagic Christmas calendar, which highlights new traditions you can engage in to enrich your time spent together over the winter months, including at mealtimes.
Christmas provides ample opportunities for preparing and presenting a meal, which can be hugely rewarding – as a friend once said to me “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to have produced a meal for my family – I feel like I have achieved something!”
But cooking together can be is twice as fun and also strengthens family bonds, so consider drafting in your family to help. Our Christmas calendar pack provides some shared family activities to get you started – for example, we suggest how you can simplify the daunting task of making a gingerbread house by using biscuits or Rice Krispie treats so it’s appropriate for all ages and skill levels.
Cooking together can be is twice as fun and also strengthens family bonds, so consider drafting in your family to help.
Although we know at this time of the year Christmas dinner is very much the star of the show, another of Christmas calendar ideas is to shift the focus onto other, less explored mealtimes, such as breakfast.
For example, you could make it more exciting by making a music playlist or building it around a theme such as an American or French breakfast, a floor-based picnic or a hotel–style buffet breakfast – for some inspiration check out the recipes on our website.
For Christmas you can also buy themed items in supermarkets, such as tree–shaped crumpets, or cake cutters featuring seasonal shapes for perfect pancakes – just be prepared to relax some of the rules around sugary treats such as pastries and waffles!
Whatever you choose to do breakfast provides a perfect opportunity to start the day together in a relaxed way and simple recipes allow everyone to get involved and help with the planning and preparation.
It can also be a good time to discuss what everyone is doing for the day/week ahead and is perfect for ensuring your teenagers are having a healthy start… and often provides a great opportunity to spend time with them before they disappear for the day!
Christmas is also a time when you can put your kitchen to work preparing delicious gifts for friends and family and our services have had some fantastic reviews from family members who’ve received gifts of a hot chocolate mix, festive fruit cake in a jar or gingerbread biscuits inspired by our short video recipes, which can be found here.
Minimising food waste
Many of us will be familiar with the experience of looking at a mountain of uneaten food after a large family dinner on Christmas Day, and working with families trying to make ends meet has made us keenly conscious of how wasteful we can all … Therefore why not consider how we can re-use and repurpose some of the leftovers to reduce food waste?
Doing so can , but if you’re still finding it difficult to make ends meet, then why not consider using one of our FOOD clubs yourself, which provide discount food for families on a budget?
A turkey might just be for Christmas but Family Action supports families with food and nutrition all year round. Find out more about our food programmes and how you can be involved, including volunteering.