After dealing with the death of a spouse, the last thing you consider is your nutrition. Your health may suffer, though, now that you are eating alone. What is it about being alone that makes it difficult to eat healthfully? And what are some ways you can make sure you get the nutrients that you need?
Adjusting to a new living situation after the death of a spouse may lead to poor nutrition. Eating alone poses many challenges to achieving a nutritionally sound diet. For one, food simply tastes better when you are enjoying it with someone you love. In our society, food is not just about sustenance, but also about the pleasurable experience of mealtime. When you have the luxury of enjoying someone’s company at meals, mealtime becomes that much more pleasurable. When you suddenly find yourself eating alone, on the other hand, you may not enjoy your meals as much as you once did.
Another reason eating alone is difficult is that there is less incentive to cook. Perhaps you have spent years cooking well-rounded meals for your spouse and cooking for one is just not the same. Or maybe your spouse was in charge of the cooking and you do not know where to begin in the kitchen. Because of these new obstacles, many seniors end up swapping balanced meals for grazing and skipping meals.
Does it really make a difference whether you grab something out of the refrigerator or sit down for three meals a day? Yes, particularly as you get older. Healthy eating may reduce your risk of certain conditions, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a number of other chronic diseases. And your risk for developing these diseases increases as you age.
A healthy diet also provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to stay healthy. Eating healthfully will not only help you ward off obesity and chronic disease, it may even help prevent depression and keep your mind sharp.
To improve the nutritional quality of your diet, try some of these tips for healthy eating for older adults:
If following these tips feels out of reach, try to think of things you can do to make healthy eating more enjoyable and convenient. Here are some tips for eating well when you're alone:
Remember, eating a nutritionally-sound diet will help ward off disease and make your feel more energetic, happier, and healthier. When it comes to your diet, focus on yourself. Your friends and family will thank you.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Institute on Aging
Better health and you: tips for adults. Weight-control Information Network website. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/better_health.htm. Updated August 2012. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Eating well over 50. Helpguide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/life/senior_nutrition.htm. Updated May 2013. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Young at heart: tips for older adults. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disorders website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/tipsolderadults/tipsolderadults.htm. Updated August 2012. Accessed June 12, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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