Food

The power of food: How breakfast helped this family recover from tragedy

My husband Robby and I set a goal to sit down and have breakfast as a family — with our 4-year-old son Ollie and 3-month-old daughter Nora — for the entire month of February. We had become very lazy when it came to a breakfast routine — okay, let’s be honest, we had no routine. We wanted to start putting food and family first again, and that decision changed everything.

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How breakfast helped this family recover from tragedy

Play Video - 1:02

How breakfast helped this family recover from tragedy

Play Video - 1:02

To make a long story short, our family suffered a terrible tragedy in 2015. We lost a beautiful baby boy named Leo and it shattered me. Everything seemed to change as we processed our grief: Some we recognized right off the bat while others took months to recognize. One of those things was the way our family approached food.

Kelsey Nixon
Cooking Channel's Kelsey Nixon and her 4-year-old son Ollie

Second only to my family and friends, cooking has always been my passion. But after I lost my son, I subconsciously stopped cooking. I no longer found joy in cooking for the people I loved most and seemed to have fallen out of love with food. So we began relying heavily on convenience foods and delivery, and we rarely sat down at the table together.

After months of this behavior, I began to recognize how this was affecting us. Family meals had almost always been at the core of our greatest memories, celebrations and traditions, but they were becoming a rarity. I knew better, but I was also in a state where I was thrilled just getting from one day to the next.

Kelsey Nixon
A typical breakfast of cereal, fruit and a smoothie for Kelsey's son Ollie

So, we decided to kick off the family breakfast project — and it had a huge impact on our family. Some mornings we were more successful than others, but we always made an effort. Most mornings didn’t include elaborate displays of smoothie bowls or challah French toast, but the goal was simply to break bread together as a family before we all went our separate directions. Things like scrambled eggs with toast and cereal with fruit were a lot more common. But what this exercise taught me was that what we were eating was actually far less important that what we were doing.

Kelsey Nixon
Kelsey Nixon's son Ollie making scrambled eggs

At the end of 2016, we miraculously welcomed a baby girl into our family named Nora. Nora’s arrival brought on an intense desire to take care of myself — so that I could take care of my people. It was a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start and we were ready to embrace it. As we began 2017, Robby and I were very deliberate about setting some family goals. We were in a new city with a new baby beginning a new chapter.

Kelsey Nixon
Kelsey holding her 3-month-old daughter Nora

The mornings spent taking a few minutes to connect with one another around the family table positively affected the entire day. We were happier, lighter, and things just felt a bit more in control. It required a fair amount of planning and took 10 to 15 minutes each night to mentally prepare for the next morning's meal.

Most mornings were frantic — especially with a newborn not sleeping through the night — but they still felt so much better than they had before. We weren’t perfect and still cried a lot, but between Ollie begging for chocolate donuts and me trying to convince him that his fruit smoothie was actually a "morning milkshake" (while bouncing a baby on my hip), we were all in it together. I thrive on that feeling of togetherness in the kitchen — even if it involves a little chaos.

Kelsey Nixon
Kelsey and Ollie put their heart on a plate

This little project reinforced just how important it is for me to create a family food culture in our home — one where it’s expected that we eat together when we can. And breakfast was an excellent place for our family to start. It continues to teach me that food and cooking can not only be fun but healing as well. I’ve seen firsthand how food can be at the center of positive family change.

Kelsey Nixon
Ollie gives his breakfast two thumbs up!

Who knew that scrambled eggs, buttered toast and a glass of orange juice could help put a young family back together again? We intend to continue our breakfast project, giving the first meal of the day just as much attention as the last. The benefits far outweigh the earlier mornings, and who knows, one of these days I might just convince Ollie that a smoothie full of fruits and veggies is indeed a morning milkshake.

RELATED: The remarkable way one mom finally connected with her autistic son

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