Your Story: The Brandon Family

Your Story: The Brandon Family

Do you want to eat together more often with the people you love? We want to hear about it! In addition to sharing your stories in your own words, we will select five to 10 families who will be paired with our dietitian to help make the task of sitting down to eat together an easier one. We'll also check in once in a while to see if eating together makes a difference in your lives.

brandon-family-nicole90.jpgNicole Brandon lives in Oshawa, Ont., with her husband Brent and their 11-month-old daughter Bethany. Nicole tells us how she organizes her family meals, the mealtime family values she and her husband are teaching their daughter, and some obstacles to staying healthy and on budget.


1. How many people in your family eat together, and why do you think it's important to share meals together?

There are three of us in the house: my 11-month-old daughter, my husband and I, and whenever possible we try to all sit and eat dinner at the table together. That said, when my husband is working he gets home too late to eat with us (because of my daughter's early bed time) so on most days it is just my daughter and I.

It is important for us to sit and eat as a family because it is a social time. It gives everyone the opportunity to share a story or any news about their day and it is a chance to spend time together, away from the interruptions or distractions of toys and technologies that occupy much of our life.

We started this tradition of eating together when our daughter started eating food. It is important for her to get into the habit of sitting in her high chair and eat with us. Even at this young age, I believe that she is learning skills like (1) patience because she has to sit and wait for everyone to finish eating before leaving the table, (2) self- help and fine motor skills because she has to feed herself, (3) social skills because even when it is just the two of us, I talk to her and wait for her to respond, and (4) routine because we always start by washing our hands before and after eating, and she is only given her drink when the meal is done.

senior-stephanie-70x78.jpg Dietitian's Corner with Stefanie Senior, RD

Stefanie Senior is Live Right Now's in-house registered dietitian and has a private nutrition consulting practice in downtown Toronto. She is passionate about encouraging families to make healthier choices and specializes in weight management, sports nutrition, chronic health conditions and corporate wellness.

Mixing a Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Diet at Home

Many families face challenges while trying to accommodate both a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian diet. Here are a couple tips for better success!

Make meal time flexible by planning dishes that can be topped with either animal or plant protein.

Meal Idea #1: create mixed grill skewers with colourful vegetables (peppers, onions, zucchini, cherry tomatoes etc.) and either chicken, beef, shrimp or firm tofu.

Meal Idea #2: build your fajitas, tacos or quesadillas using veggies, shredded cheese, salsa, low-fat sour cream and either black beans, re-fried beans or chicken, beef or fish (i.e. halibut).

Meal Idea #3: experiment with different egg-based dishes like a frittata [English | French] or omelet for a meatless option that is still loaded with protein

When it comes to snacking, reach for options that are satisfying yet full of nutrients so that mealtimes don't need to be as heavy:

Snack idea #1: blend a fruit and yogurt smoothie (Greek yogurt is higher in protein) for an evening snack and make enough for breakfast the next day

Snack idea # 2: homemade hummus [English| French] with whole grain crackers or trail mix using raw nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

Have meal planning obstacles of your own? Email us at and we may feature your obstacle with a solution from Stefanie Senior.

2. How successful do you feel at sharing meals with your family?

I would consider meal sharing to be very successful when it comes to dinner time, and somewhat successful for other meals as we always eat at the kitchen table and follow the same routines; however for breakfast, it always seems more rushed because we are trying to get ready for work/daycare and it is more about eating the food than spending time together.

I also think that it would be nice if my husband was able to join us every day and as our daughter gets older, her bed time will be later and it will be possible to shift our dinner time to accommodate my husband's work schedule.

3. How often do you eat with your family?

Our family sits down to eat together every dinner; however my husband is only present four times per week.

4. What are your biggest challenges to sharing a meal with your family?

Difficulty staying organized: Meal planning

Because I am a working mom and my daughter goes to bed really early, I do not want to waste time with her cooking dinner so I have been making the meals the night before (when she is asleep), so I find that I have been making a lot of casserole-type meals.

Budgeting: I recently realized that I was spending WAY too much money on groceries so I have now limited my spending. I am not couponing or anything extreme, just being more cautious about what I am buying.

Dietary requirements:

I am a vegetarian, but my husband and daughter are not. My daughter is still being introduced to new foods and cannot yet eat everything that we do.

I'm not much of a cook so I need recipe ideas.

I have been cooking for our family for the past three years and have improved immensely; however I struggle to have enough variety in the meals I prepare (it seems like very similar menus from one week to the next, and I never really know what to do with the meat portion of the meal - my husband never complains about the food, but it's hard when you are cooking something that you cannot try/taste).


5. What do you love to eat together as a family?

Pizza (and pizza variations like pizza bagels, bruschetta pizza) are well-received in our household. It is such a great and easy food to make, and it goes well with a side salad. I make two different pizzas (meat included on the one for my husband and daughter) so there are usually leftovers which can be eaten for lunch.

6. What would help you and your family reach your goals to becoming healthier?

We tend to eat fairly healthy meals. The main issue in our household is that we like to snack once our daughter is a sleep. We need to eat our dinner really early (around 5:00pm) so we are looking for a little something extra to eat around 9pm.

For a period of time, I was pre-cutting fruits or vegetables and always buying different dips so that we could have healthy snack options, and also cheese and crackers, or vegetables with yogurt, but having the same snacks every few days can get boring.


7. Other comments/suggestions you'd like to share with the Live Right Now community (eating goals, lifestyle approach, recurring challenges, etc.):

One major challenge that I have faced since becoming a mother is finding the time to continue with physical routines that took place prior to having a baby. I used to play sports two or three nights a week; however, I am not playing any right now because I find that I need that time after my daughter goes to sleep to prepare the next day's meal and to do household chores.

I also used to take our dog on a very long walk in the morning and another at night, but since my husband leaves for work before I wake up, I either have to walk the dog with my daughter in the stroller or forfeit the morning walk altogether. In either case, I am not walking nearly as much as I would like to.

Thank you, Nicole Brandon, and family for your submission.

Next week our in-house dietitian Stefanie Senior is going to write back with some advice for the Brandons!

Do you want to eat together more often with the people you love? We want to hear about it!

We are looking for families (however you define family) to feature. We will then select between five and 10 families who will be paired with our dietitian to help make the task of sitting down to eat together an easier one. We'll also check in once in a while to see if eating together makes a difference in your lives.