Living alone has significant benefits in the kitchen. You can eat what you want, when you want, cook or not cook and fully enjoy food however you feel in the moment. But when there is nobody else depending on ‘dinner on the table by 5’, we often short change ourselves in the nutrition department as singles. Living alone and having an empty table can decrease our interest in cooking as we age.
Melanie Pearsall, a dietitian for a Harvard-affiliated hospital says “When eating is no longer a social experience, people don’t make an effort. There’s no joy left in preparing food, because people don’t view it as something valuable to do for themselves.” There are also health concerns that can decrease our appetite such as depression, immobility, cognitive challenges, or reactions to medications we may be taking that reduce appetite.
As a result, some adults end up skipping meals and reducing the nutritional value of what they are eating. Here are some practical tips that will help you eat healthier when living alone:
When you do cook, make it fun.
Turn on music, pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage and enjoy the process of the cooking process. Make it a time to relax, unwind and savor the time as well as the ingredients.
Organization and meal planning is not everyone’s strength, but it is an excellent way to assure that you are eating well. It also saves money and keeps you from foraging the cupboards at the last minute and substituting junk food for something healthier. Planned menus give you the opportunity to exchange one day’s recipe for another depending on your gastronomic mood.
Be careful how you spend.
Grocery shop with a focus on smaller portions and reducing waste. Stock up on bargain staples that have a long shelf life or can be frozen or divided into smaller portions at home. Always have plenty of convenient containers or freezer bags for future meals. If getting to the store is too much for your mobility or lifestyle, most large supermarkets allow you to order groceries online and have them delivered right to your door.
Style your own portions.
Much of the food we purchase comes in larger portions. Take time after each shopping trip to divide up things like meat, breads, sweets, snacks or frozen items into smaller portions. When cooking meat for a recipe, you can also cook a larger portion and divide it in half, saving one share for a future meal and adding the rest of the ingredients to the other half. Portioning out food not only helps the grocery bill, but it also helps restrict or increase your calorie intake according the pre-measured portions.
Be freezer friendly.
A freezer is your friend when you are single! Dividing portions and freezing them allows you to conveniently prepare meals quickly and without waste. Focus on freezing fresh food rather than grabbing pre-prepared meals in the freezer section and you will build better nutrition into your eating habits.
Share with a friend.
Make eating a social experience sometimes. Make it a point to invite friends or family into your home for a meal or share a meal with a neighbor. Batch cook once or twice a month with the intention of sharing. Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to experience true fellowship as well as curb loneliness.
Have someone else cook.
We saved the best tip for last because having someone else cook is always a delight. For some, cooking and cleaning can become too much of a physical challenge while for many others, not having to do these tasks opens up their lives for activities they enjoy more. At CRISTA, there are many who have said “I cooked and cleaned for most of my life and now I am ready to let someone else do that.” After spending years in the kitchen, they are thrilled to enjoy chef-prepared meals and someone else taking care of the cleanup.
Whatever your intentions are in the kitchen, cooking and nutrition can be both pleasurable and successful when you live alone. Following just a few of these tips can help your culinary experience be enjoyable and economical. But if you are considering having someone else cook, take time to set up a visit and a meal at one of our communities.
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