Eating Healthfully When You’re Alone
After dealing with the death of a spouse, the last thing you consider is your nutrition. Your health may suffer, though, now that you are eating alone. What is it about being alone that makes it difficult to eat healthfully? And what are some ways you can make sure you get the nutrients that you need?
The Challenges Of Eating Alone
Adjusting to a new living situation after the death of a spouse often leads to poor nutrition. Eating alone poses many challenges to achieving a nutritionally sound diet. For one, food simply tastes better when you’re enjoying it with someone you love. In our society, food is not just about sustenance, but also about the pleasurable experience of mealtime. When you have the luxury of enjoying someone’s company at meals, mealtime becomes that much more pleasurable. When you suddenly find yourself eating alone, on the other hand, you may not enjoy your meals as much as you once did.
Another reason eating alone is difficult is that there is less incentive to cook. Perhaps you’ve spent years cooking well-rounded meals for your spouse and cooking for one is just not the same. Or maybe your spouse was in charge of the cooking and you don’t know where to begin in the kitchen. Because of these new obstacles, many seniors end up swapping three balanced meals for grazing and skipping meals.
The Importance Of Good Nutrition
Does it really make a difference whether you grab something out of the refrigerator or sit down for three meals a day? Yes, particularly as you get older. Healthy eating can reduce your risk of ]]>obesity]]> , ]]>type 2 diabetes]]> , ]]>heart disease]]> , ]]>cancer]]> , and a number of other chronic diseases. And your risk for developing these diseases increases significantly as you age.
A healthful diet also provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to stay healthy. Eating healthfully will not only help you ward off obesity and chronic disease, it can even help prevent ]]>depression]]> and keep your mind sharp.
To improve the nutritional quality of your diet, try the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ tips for healthy eating for older adults:
- Eat ]]>breakfast]]> every day.
- Eat plenty of ]]>whole grain]]> breads and cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits
- Choose lean beef, turkey breast, fish, or chicken with the skin removed.
- Have three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese each day.
- Keep plenty of nutrient-rich snacks on hand.
- Drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
Tips For Eating Well When You’re Alone
If following these tips feels out of reach, try to think of things you can do to make healthful eating more enjoyable and convenient. Here are some tips from Colorado State University for eating well when you’re alone:
- Indulge your senses. Stimulate your appetite by dressing up your table and eating colorful meals. Also, try incorporating foods with a variety of textures—soft, chewy, crisp, and firm—in each meal.
- Eat with others regularly. Have a friend over for dinner, get out with friends for lunch once a week, or visit a senior center at lunchtime. Good company will make healthful eating much more enjoyable.
- Stock your refrigerator with convenient, healthful foods. If you have prepackaged salad greens, prepackaged frozen entrees, and fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits on hand, you’ll be more likely to get the nutrition you need.
- Even if it’s just toast and peanut butter, take the time to eat breakfast. Breakfast will get your day off on the right foot and give you the energy you need to make it until lunchtime.
- Try listening to some enjoyable music while you dine to help ease the unaccustomed silence.
Remember, eating a nutritionally sound diet will help ward off disease and make your feel more energetic, happier, and healthier. When it comes to your diet, focus on yourself. Your friends and family will thank you.
American Dietetic Association
National Institute on Aging
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Better health and you: tips for adults. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/tipsforadults/tipsforadults.htm . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Eat alone most of the time. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.orb/x16122.xml. Accessed December 11, 2003.
Eating well as we age. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/eatage.html . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Good nutrition for seniors. National Network for Health website. Available at: http://www.nnh.org/products/gnfs.htm . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Good nutrition: it’s a way of life. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.niapublications.org/engagepages/nutrition.asp . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Kubin LL. Healthy eating alone. Available at: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnha/ha9805.html . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Young at heart: tips for older adults. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disorders website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/tipsolderadults/tipsolderadults.htm . Accessed December 11, 2003.
Last reviewed April 2009 by ]]>Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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