Being alone at dinnertime can make eating seem unexciting.
Melanie Persall, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, told Harvard Health Publications it's a common scenario for seniors who live at home alone.
"When eating is no longer a social experience, people don't make an effort," she said. "There's no joy left in preparing food, because people don't view it as something valuable to do for themselves."
Because of this, many older adults might consider skipping meals completely or relying on fast food options because they're simple and convenient. But malnutrition and little variety in one's diet can cause extreme weight loss, poor digestion, fatigue, weakened bones and reduced muscle mass.
But cooking and preparing nutritious meals can be just as fun and delicious as enjoying them with others. Here are five tips to share with your loved one for eating healthy while living alone:
1. Make the most of freezer space
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive. If your parent is buying these foods and letting them go to waste, that's just as bad as not buying them at all. Encourage him or her to purchase frozen foods! The price is cheaper and the freezer keeps foods from going bad too soon.
2. Be versatile with greens
There are some vegetables, however, that simply taste better fresh than frozen. Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and chard, should stay in the refrigerator. To avoid letting these healthy foods go bad, your loved one should be willing to use them in more ways than one. The Kitchn suggested using spinach in salads, stuffing it in fish and stirring it into soup.
3. Prepare meals ahead of time
Sometimes, fast food seems like the easier, more convenient option as opposed to cooking an entire meal for one's self. But with a little bit of prep work, your loved one can enjoy the convenience of fast food in a much more nutritious, homemade meal. Help your loved one come up with a meal planning strategy to tackle at the beginning of every week.
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4. Use a slow cooker more often
Using a slow cooker takes the hassle out of preparing meals. And there are so many simple combinations that are just as nutritious as they are delicious. These recipes, for example, make healthy dishes on those days your parent doesn't feel up to the usual meal prep. It's as easy as throwing in the ingredients, setting the temperature and letting it cook throughout the day.
5. Make cooking something to look forward to
If your parent doesn't look forward to cooking, help turn it into something he or she can't wait to get into. Lifestyle blog The Every Girl recommended listening to music or tuning in to a podcast, or whatever else it is that helps your loved one unwind at the end of the day.
Remember: Your parent can benefit from regular social interaction, so make it a point to head over for dinner regularly. Enjoying a home-cooked meal surrounded by family will benefit all of you in more ways than one.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living