Living Well: Dinner for 1 can be healthy & budget wise
The singles scene? Varies by person, of course. And age too. Let's agree not all of those people living solo are clubbing it, even if they happen to be under 25.
But if Seattle nutritionist Beve Kindblade had her way, all of those singles would be souping it up, if not whooping it up.
"I recommend that clients living by themselves set up a soup party, maybe once a month or more," said Kindblade, a former Bastyr University faculty member with a University of Washington degree in nutrition and a private practice in the city (check out seattle-nutrition.comfor her informative blog). "Invite some friends and ask each of them to bring different ingredients for the soup. You can teach each other how to make the soup, have fun and bring home enough soup for more meals that week."
Living alone has its pluses and minuses. Kindblade regularly works with clients to make healthy eating one of the pluses.
"It's surprising how many people don't know how to cook," she said. "I'm 51. I know plenty of people my age who can't. That can make it challenging to eat healthy living on your own."
For example, Kindblade said that buying canned soup or even visiting your supermarket's soup bar often will provide a dinner that is high in sodium. Making your soup from scratch -- which doubles as a solid introduction to cooking -- can provide a more nutritious soup and several meals likely for less cost per bowl.
What Kindblade and other nutritionists hear from clients is that living alone makes it hard to economize at the supermarket checkout. Not so, Kindblade said, if you do some planning and make freezer space for home-cooked items.
"I always tell clients if they are going to cook one or two chicken breasts, why not bake or grill 5 pounds?" said Kindblade.Â She's not kidding.
"OK, so you make the 5 pounds of chicken and use some for chicken tacos," she explained. "You can make chicken salad and chicken lasagna. Then freeze the rest for fast meals (thaw out the chicken to add to salads, pastas or stir-fries). I always recommend organic chicken when possible."
As a promising young hockey player with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, a top amateur league that feeds players to the professional ranks, Bud Holloway has a distinct advantage over other singles his age. He lives with a billet family that makes sure he gets a nutritious dinner most nights.
Yet, Holloway, 19 and in his fourth year with the Thunderbirds, has learned some valuable points about eating and performance while striking out on your own. He still fends for himself for lunches and recently had to find his own dinners while participating in the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings training camp in Southern California (he was drafted in the third round of the professional draft this past summer). Anyone who is single would do well to ascribe to the athlete's model.
"You only get out of your body what you put into it," said Holloway, a Saskatchewan native. "I come from a small town, so I am used to lunch being a soup and sandwich. I always look for wheat bread and the soup fills my stomach without making me feel sluggish for practice (in the afternoons)."
Holloway also makes it a point to eat a hearty breakfast, which typically includes toast with peanut butter when he fixes it himself.
"They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I believe that," he said. "The peanut butter provides some protein and keeps me from getting hungry too soon."
All sound advice, especially adding protein to the morning meal. A nut butter sandwich (almond and cashew are especially nutrient-dense) is a peak-performance choice that can be changed by substituting banana slices or, for splurge days, even a slice or two of crisp bacon.
For her part, Kindblade urges clients to buy frozen whole-grain waffles for a fast breakfast, spread with nut butter.
Kindblade said that living alone intensifies an all-too standard part of American life: Eating to relieve stress at night, after a day of skipping meals.
"Stress kills the appetite during busy days," she explained. "People go most of the day without eating much food (sometimes incorrectly thinking that is an effective way to lose weight). Then they go home and eat from the time they arrive until they go to sleep."
Kindblade recommends diversions to take the mind off food and relieve stress in other ways.
"Going for a walk is one option," she said. "Even a shower or hot bath can change your approach."
Some ideas: Before taking the walk, change into a workout outfit. Stretch after the walk. If you are really hungry before either a walk or shower/bath, start with a tall glass of water (what we think is hunger often is thirst). Choose healthy snacks such as an apple and single-serving piece of cheese or a handful of almonds to take the edge off your hunger.
"Eating all night causes further problems," Kindblade said. "You won't be hungry the next morning (falling into the less healthy pattern of skipping meals). A full stomach disrupts your sleep and makes the liver work overnight to process the food."
If that's not enough reason, Kindblade offered one point sure to convince anyone about all-evening noshing, single, married or you name it.
"The habit alone of eating a late-night snack before bed can cause a person to gain 10 to 12 pounds," Kindblade said. "And that can be every year."