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Eating by yourself and eating healthy can be a challenge. There are a few considerations and first and foremost is that there's no one to share the shopping, cooking and cleaning up. With couples and families often one person will cook and the other clean up. Or sometimes people will switch off making different meals on chosen days. With a larger group of 4 or 5 in a family it can be easier to cook because most recipes are scaled for two or more.
Back when I first started helping people build menus to eat healthier it became clear that these issues were important for folks living alone. At the time I was also living by myself. Here are a few tips for making your life easier, delicious and healthy if you are on your own:
1. Eat dinner every night. I asked one of my recently widowed patients what she was eating for dinner and she replied, "Bachelor's stew." This wasn't a term I had ever heard before, but she defined it as "a bowl of cereal eaten over the sink." After I stopped laughing with her we sat down and made a plan for her to make eating dinner part of her day. Setting the table and having real food is an important ritual and when she had been doing it for about a month she told me that it had become something she really looked forward to each day.
2. Plan. I know that I say this over and over but it's more important for folks living alone than almost anyone else. It's easy to buy too much food and have it go bad and that can be discouraging. Part of eating alone means carefully planning to cook meals, but it's also about how and when to use leftovers. Because there are so many recipes that serve 2 or more, it's really important to have an idea of when the extra food will be eaten.
3. You don't have to cook all the time. It's not a bad thing to enjoy convenience meals as part of your plan. There are some pretty good meals on the market, and we have a guide to ones that have been reviewed on the Dr. Gourmet site. Likewise, having simple meals on hand helps in emergencies. I've been creating Pantry Meals for just these times. Planning a night to grab a premade meal is a good idea also. It's best to put convenience foods on a plate and eat them at the table just like a regular meal.
The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan software works well for singles at helping you plan. We have worked to optimize the way the software handles leftovers to handle this for people cooking for one. Right now the software doesn't create plans that call for cooking every night but only about 4 nights a week. This is especially helpful for a lot of folks who are single and busier.
4. Lastly, it is okay to go out to eat. Even if you are alone, eating dinner out breaks up having to cook all the time. One good trick is to sit at the bar and have your meal there. I travel a lot and will read while eating at the bar (but will often meet some really interesting people too).
Dr. Gourmet is about embracing food and making it part of your life. Being alone is no different and food will give you another great thing to bring richness to your life.
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
March 16, 2009