Food and Dining

The typical eating pattern for a UK citizen is three meals a day, breakfast in the morning, lunch during the middle of the day and dinner in the evening. This sounds quite simple until you learn that people from different parts of the UK have different names for the same meals. In some parts of the UK the standard three meals are breakfast in the morning, dinner during the middle of the day and tea in the evening.

When people first encounter this difference they reasonably expect tea to be a drink rather than a meal. So if you are asked if you would like tea in the evening, keep in mind that the person asking you may be referring to a meal rather than a drink.

You may also here people talk about ‘elevenses’, which is a mid morning coffee break, afternoon tea which is taken between 3 and 4 pm, often with a light sandwich or biscuit, and supper which is a snack taken before bedtime.

The ‘full English’ breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms etc is relatively famous and considered to be the standard breakfast eaten in the UK. However if you were to eat so much fried food everyday you would soon become quite unhealthy. In fact only two thirds of people in the UK manage to take breakfast at home, with cereals or toast topped with jam or marmalade being the most common meals, particularly on working days when people tend to have less time.

Although you will see many coffee shops in the UK, the more traditional cup of tea is the most common drink to have with breakfast.

Typically breakfast is the smallest meal of the day, with lunch being slightly larger and the evening dinner being the largest meal of the three. 

As most people are away from their homes during the day, at school or work, they often eat what is called a ‘packed lunch’, pre-prepared and taken with them in the morning. Lunches often consist of some sandwiches with cheese or cold meats, though healthier options may include salads and yoghurts. Don’t be surprised in a work environment to see people opening plastic containers at lunchtime, which they may proceed to eat directly from.

The evening meal is still the main meal for UK people, though it is not always eaten in the way you might expect. Some families do eat together sitting around a table, but others will be just as comfortable sitting in soft chairs with trays on their laps, normally watching television together. If people in the family arrive home at different times it is not uncommon for each person to sit and eat their dinner alone in front of the television.

Most people will eat their evening meal between 5 and 7pm though there is not a standard time and so their remains a degree of flexibility for people.

Many people in the UK do not cook in the traditional way and the supermarkets prove this. You can find almost any meal pre-prepared and packaged in a supermarket, ready to be heated in a microwave or oven and then served. Fresh ingredients and vegetables are available of course, but many do not see the point of wasting time. In fact if you do want to cook with fresh ingredients, the supermarkets sell chopped vegetables and prepared meats to save time.

There is a growing awareness of the need to eat healthily in the UK, with government campaigns and encouraging television programmes, though change is slow and there is still a lot of unhealthy food being eaten.

The traditional dishes of roasted meat and vegetables, and fish and chips, are still eaten, though the UK has developed a more adventurous taste, with Chicken Tikka Masala being one of the most commonly eaten meals in the UK.

ICD5E1 - Listening Skills

What is an alternative term to "dinner" in some parts of the UK?  

What name can be given to a mid morning coffee break in the UK?  

What are the most common breakfast meals in the UK?  

What do people in the UK call the portable lunches that they take to work or school?  

UK supermarkets sell pre-chopped fresh vegetables to save time for their customers?  

ICD5E2 - Discussion Activities

1) Working in a group discuss how people in the UK consume their main meals of the day, with each meal getting larger throughout the day. Think about the health implications of this approach while also considering why it is this way.

2) Working in a group discuss how the UK practice of families eating separately could impact on social and cultural cohesion.

3) Working in groups discuss why the government of the UK feel it is necessary to take action in promoting healthy eating amongst its citizens.

ICD5E3 - Cultural Comparison

1) Write a short piece that compares attitudes towards cooking and diet in the UK compared to attitudes towards cooking and diet in your country / culture. Make a note of any things that you find particularly unusual.

2) The UK has a very varied appetite for different foods, resulting in the idea of a traditional national dish becoming less obvious

Write a short piece that describes why this is the case and compare it to the situation in your own country / culture.

3) Discuss with a partner the different meals and names for meals eaten through the day, until you feel that you both understand the different names. Discuss how this pattern of eating compares to patterns in your own country / culture.

ICD5E4 - Vocabulary

Provide your own definitions

Elevenses : {}
Sandwich : {}
Cereal : {}
Marmalade : {}
Packed Lunch : {}
Traditional : {}
Campaign : {}
Adventurous : {}
Roasted : {}
Project number: 543336-LLP-1-2013-1-DE-KA2-KA2MP - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.