Written by: Jessica Moreau RN
If you live with a partner, friends or family, chances are good that you have an idea of what will be on the table at every meal. Couples and families have multiple helpers for meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and clean-up. Meal time is also family time, which provides added motivation to create healthy, enjoyable meals. But what about people who live alone?
Too often, healthy eating or smarter choices can seem troublesome for people on their own – especially if they don’t have much experience with meal planning and preparation. Health problems and disabilities can make these tasks even more difficult.
Unfortunately, this is the situation facing many older adults, many of whom are on their own for the first time in years. It’s not uncommon for seniors to eat poorly.
Planning healthy meals for one
Eating well when eating alone takes effort, but with planning and practice, it can become a daily routine. Consulting with the new Canada Food Guide can be a great starting point to get some ideas. Its advice includes: have plenty of vegetables and fruits; choose whole grain foods; cook more often; limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat; make water your drink of choice; and read food labels.
If you have specific health concerns, such as weight management or diabetes, talk to your physician or a dietitian. If oral health problems are making it difficult for you to eat properly, see a dentist as soon as you can.
Trying new recipes is an enjoyable way to add variety and nutrition to your lifestyle. Look for cookbooks and cooking magazines at your local library, or go online. Be mindful that what you choose fits within your diet and is healthy.
More ways to improve eating habits
Healthy meals start with healthy ingredients. You can stretch your grocery dollars by buying fruits and veggies that are in season, or frozen. Buy in bulk the items you use frequently. Check store labels for unit pricing to compare costs and ensure you’re getting the best value. Shopping at Costco may give you better value for your dollar.
Explore what resources are available in your community. For example, does your local seniors’ centre or community centre offer workshops about meal planning or cooking? Does your community have a meal delivery service for seniors? Would friends or neighbours join you for monthly potluck dinners? Eating with others offers opportunities to socialize and to share foods from different cultures. It also encourages people to eat more slowly and enjoy their meals, rather than seeing food as fuel.
Plan your meals. You are more likely to eat well when you know exactly what is required of you for the meal. How long will it take? What ingredients do you already have, and what do you need to buy? There is nothing more frustrating than making a meal but realizing you don’t have the right stuff. It can be easy to resort to easier, less time consuming meals if you aren’t prepared.
About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since its inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for initial intake assessments.