Eating alone is seldom what we want to do. Afterall, most of us grew-up enjoying mealtime with our families, and we carried on that tradition as we married and started families of our own. As we age, our dinner table is less and less full of homemade food, but more importantly, there is less of the things that made meal time special…engaging conversation, listening to the events of the day, sharing concerns and joys, and simply feeling like we are part of something that the dinner table represents.
So often I see older adults struggle with the alone time that meals represent; the struggle for what to prepare for one person that meets dietary and nutritional expectations, the challenge of having an appetite that might help motivate meal preparation. Meal time becomes a chore, a dreaded lonely time of the day. Even for individuals living in retirement communities, where friends meet and sit around dining room tables, a struggle still exists on weekends and evenings when the dining room is closed.
What do I prepare? What is easy? How can I buy small quantities of items to limit waste? How can I make a healthy meal for just me? These are some of the questions I am asked.
Here are some quick tips that hopefully spark some ideas to make mealtime less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Buy small or medium size containers so you can prepare enough for leftovers another day during the week.
- Rinse canned foods to reduce unhealthy sodium, and then use broth or water with seasonings from your cupboard to liven up the flavor.
- Look for creative recipes that give ideas for multiple meals from the same basic ingredients such as a box of spaghetti and a package of chicken breasts. One night make spaghetti with chunked chicken, another night turn the leftover noodles into chicken alfredo, and the third night make some chicken noodle soup!
- Find a friend to share meals with and each contribute one dish to the meal.
- Explore a regular TV show or radio program to enjoy during meals (I don’t typically encourage watching tv during mealtime because it can cause us to passively over eat, however in this situation, we can look forward to sharing our meal time with a relaxing show).
- Use technology to connect with family or friends by making a call and using speaker phone or facetime to share a meal around the table!
If preparing meals is not something that you feel comfortable with doing anymore, or if the stress of planning and shopping is too much, we at Cardinal Care, LLC can help! We will happily design menus and meals based on your likes, diet needs, and budget. We can help with grocery shopping, and meal preparation, and turn your meal time be something you look forward to!