Q & A: your everyday single eater in 2009

      This Q & A was with a 27-year-old male, Tyler Jones, of Fruita, Colorado who seems to represent the typical single 20-something  just now learning the importance of nutrition in a single-person diet and with the same habits and fears that many singles have in our current generation.

C: How many years have you been cooking for yourself?

T: Around nine years.

C: Would you say that you are a typical single person in your cooking and dining habits?

T: I am pretty typical, I only want to cook things that are easy and don’t take a lot of time.

C: How was cooking for yourself in college different than cooking for yourself now that you have a full-time job?

T: In college I avoided fruits and vegetables because I would only eat things that were very cheap.  Now I have a little more of a variety.

C: What sort of advice do you have for singles who are just starting to cook for themselves?

T: Look up easy recipes on the internet, or get a good cook book.

C: What are some recipes or meals you would recommend for a single person?

T: Spaghetti, enchiladas, fajitas.  With these you can cook larger portions.

C: When you cook, do you cook one portion at a time, or large meals and eat leftovers?

T: Large meals and eat leftovers

C: What do you do when you are eating if you are eating alone?

T: Eat in front of the TV.

C: Would you rather eat by yourself, with one other person or with a group?

T: I enjoy all of them.  I would say I enjoy eating with one person more than the others.

C: What are some advantages of eating alone?

T: Leftovers last a long time so that you don’t have to cook again.

C: What are some disadvantages of eating alone?

T: You have to clean up after yourself.

C: Do you look at meal nutrition more closely when you’re cooking for yourself?

T: I have lately, but usually no.

C: Do you eat more often inside your home or out?

T: I eat out more.

C: Do you ever eat at restaurants alone?

T: No, I don’t think that would be very comfortable.

C: Do you think that your eating and dining habits will change when you have a family?

T: Yes, I will watch nutrition much more carefully than I do now.

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Dining Out: A Curse or An Opportunity?

A very good friend of mine has the amazing ability to dine out alone and make friends with strangers in a matter of seconds. She normally restricts this habit to airports and restaurants while traveling, but gives no second though to eating alone out on occasion. My sister, when she moved across the United States on her own, often went out to eat out on her own out of necessity.

Feeling at ease while out at a restaurant by myself is still something that I am not wholly comfortable with, but when I think about it, it seems ridiculous not to eat a good meal or be treated to dinner without impending dirty dishes just because you happen to be alone at the moment. In order to gain independence in our 20s, it seems that it would be important to overcome the fear of being seen alone. Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? It is not that we couldn’t sit and eat by ourselves for half an hour; it’s that others would see us sitting there alone. I know that when I used to be a waitress, I’d always spend a little more time with customers sitting at a table for one, not out of courtesy alone, but also a bit out of pity. It is a shame that there is this stigma in society, when it is not unusual to travel alone, purchase a home alone, etc.

 Of course, this fear of appearing solo does not just apply to dining out alone. However, I believe that there are millions of single people out there who should feel just as comfortable as any couple at a restaurant. We, as Americans, are extraordinarily independent. It is ridiculous that so many people will get take-out and fast food in order to avoid the “awkwardness” of sitting at a table with oneself for an hour.

My goal for this week is to go out and experience this whole “eating alone” thing for myself. I am 21 years old and have eaten out by myself probably two times. How can I call myself an independent woman until I really do something, publicly, independent? That should be our goal, a first step toward enjoying our singlehood completely by doing things that we would be doing as a couple, but with a much better date: ourselves.

Mapping out your local groceries

It is always important to know where nearby groceries are located so that on any drive home you know of a nearby place to pick up food items as well as where to go for deals and big shopping trips. Within ten miles of my apartment there are numerous groceries; knowing where they’re located helps grocery shopping fit into my busy life.
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Nostalgia in the kitchen

     A smell can bring back a long forgotten memory. So can a taste. A fun way to cook for yourself  without any muss and fuss is to remember some of your favorite foods from childhood and whip them up in your own home. This is also a good way to feel home when away from home. The other day I decided to make “pigs in a blanket.” These are hot dogs wrapped in croissant rolls (I use Pillsbury) and cooked in the oven at 375 degrees for 11 minutes. Mixed with macaroni and cheese and it’s anyone’s favorite kid meal.

     While I don’t recommend eating like this often, (your body could handle alot more fatty foods when a rowdy child with nothing better to do than run around), it is always fun to throw the nutrition book out the window and eat what you want for a night. I recommend calling up Mom and finding out some of her “famous” recipes from your childhood that probably were actually really simple to make.

     It’s always smart (and of course fun!) to take your own twist on childhood foods. Mac n Cheese with cooked ham as a side dish is perfectly okay. Homemade chicken nuggets (breaded with crackers or something of a lighter subtance) and homemade french fries, depending on how you cook them, can be less fattening and have significantly less sodium than the frozen kinds and can even be decadent. Even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham sandwich can be cooked as a panini with different types of preserves or cheeses that can end up being an adult take on childhood favorites.

Interesting facts on portion sizes

I encountered a very interesting journal article relating to the changing size of portion sizes that I believe is worth reading. You can find it at: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/nutrition.olde/PDFS/young-nestle.pdf

Home-cooked meals: are they a thing of the past?

22 year old Angela Billman of Canton, Ohio makes home-cooked meals about three times a week.

According to a 2006 article by L. Joan Allen of the Baltimore Sun, Claudia Peters, vice president of communications at the Food Marketing Institute reports that “67 percent of adults living alone have a home-cooked meal just once a week.”

The article also adds that Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of Unmarried America, an information service for singles, says that singles that live alone make up nearly 27 percent of American households, up from 13 percent in 1960.

With the convenience of fast food places such as McDonalds and Burger King, as well as microwave dinners such as lean cuisines and hot pockets, singles can find it tempting to skip home-cooking all together.

“Does a lean cuisine count as a home-cooked meal?” Billman asked.

The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) encourages singles to “take meal preparation into their own hands more often. Preparing more meals at home with healthful ingredients allows people greater control over their body weight and health.” In a 2004 article by the AICR, it stated that according to a U.S. Department of Energy study, more than 42 percent of all singles do not cook even one meal per day at home. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that singles spend 47 percent of their food dollar on food prepared away from home compared to 42 percent for households of two or more and 37 percent for households of five or more.

According to the article by L. Joan Allen, the current health concerns affiliated with fast food are bringing some singles back to the kitchen.

“I try not to eat fast food because I know it’s bad for you and I want something more nutritional, but if I make something for myself it’s normally something small, not something that covers all the food groups or anything,” said 21 year old Rebecca Vondrell of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The USDA Food Guide Pyramid suggests 3-5 one-half cup servings of vegetables a day. A typical lean cuisine meal, which for some composes an entire lunch or dinner, includes just one serving of vegetables and no fruits. With the high carb and protein diet commercialized by fast food restaurants, nutritious foods that should be consumed daily such as fruits and vegetables can fall far below the well-balanced-meal radar of both singles and families alike, even for those who attempt to be healthy.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends number of daily servings of each food group.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends number of daily servings of each food group.

For more specific recommendations on food group servings visit: http://mypyramid.gov/

 

 

Soup to warm the single heart

      Soups are great for both this chilly winter weather and for a sustainable leftover. You can choose to make just one or two portions of soup or make a whole pot that can be eaten throughout the next week either for lunch, dinner or a snack. This is not a muss and fuss meal and contains many different food items, so side dishes aren’t necessarily necessary. I found a “Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup” recipe on www.allrecipes.com that takes just 30 minutes to make. The site will adjust the ingredient amounts based on the number of servings you say you want to make. This is fantastic because you will know how many portions you are making (and should be eating) as well as lets you make just one portion at a time if you are not a fan of leftovers. Here is the recipe to be made for serving 6.

 

            INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 pound chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes. Pour in chicken and vegetable broths and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving.

 

     Other than the broths, the rest of the items can probably be found around the house. If not, these food items can easily be used in other recipes, so won’t have to go to waste. It also can be made in one big pot, so there are few dishes to wash and is simple enough to whip up on whim, conveniences dear to the heart of any single person on the go. If a guest does come for dinner, there’s always enough soup for two.