There are really many perks to living alone. Freedom, privacy, predictability... and you never have to share. No waiting on the shower, no moving your roommate's double-parked car, and--I loved this one--you get the whole fridge--the whole kitchen to yourself.
While you never have to take turns unloading the dishwasher, and you never have to worry that your spouse is going to eat that extra Flour bakery bread pudding you were saving for tomorrow [sorry, Husband, I thought you didn't want it], living alone has a major nutritional drawback.
A study recently published in Nutrition Reviews, "Relationship Between Living Alone and Food and Nutrient Intake" found that people who live alone tend to, in general, consume a more limited diet, losing out on that "V" factor we dietitians know is one of the critical factors in healthy nutrition with Balance and Moderation--Variety.
It's not hard to understand why individuals who live with others have a broader range of food choices. Sharing individual food preferences in grocery shopping and meals at home helps improve diversity. Also, you may find that when you live alone, you try to use the same ingredients in recipes to lower food waste from spoilage, whereas living with others helps insure those non-staple ingredients get consumed.
Why is variety important?
Superfoods that contain all the essential nutrients and helpful phytochemicals for our health do not exist. Instead, we have foods that are merely good sources of some, but never all, of what we need. If you only eat the same things over and over, you're bound to be missing out on an identified vitamin or mineral, or a phytochemical that the young field of nutrition science has yet to identify to be helpful or even essential to good health. Variety is the only way to ensure you're covering all your nutrient bases!
Second, "variety is the spice of life". Eating should be enjoyable, and changing up the menu is essential to avoid the boredom that comes with monotony. Your taste buds scream for new flavors!
How can you expand your diet diversity? Here are 3 tips:
1. Simply, plan to buy new things you don't always buy at the grocery store. Try new fruits, new vegetables, new types of meat or fish. Try shopping at local farmer's markets, where seasonal produce from local sources helps you support sustainability and your community while purchasing small quantities suitable for feeding yourself. If your grocery list usually has the same food items on it, you may need to consciously plan ahead by writing on the list something you don't often eat or plan to choose something that looks appealing at the store.
2. Experiment with new recipes. Try using a website like supercook.com that gives you recipes based on ingredients you have at home, or simply browse through the internet for ideas. With sites today like AllRecipes.com and countless others, user reviews can help you rest assured that you CAN successfully reproduce a delicious recipe.
3. Be adventurous at restaurants. Not only does your favorite restaurant have all those necessary odd ingredients that your own pantry or fridge doesn't, at a restaurant you don't have to worry about buying more than you yourself can eat at home. Pick menu items you'd never want to cook at home. For example, some people dislike chopping their own onions or using a lot of garlic or fish sauce in their house. Or choose something that you're unable to prepare at home, such as, for example, something blended if you have no blender, or an entree cooked in a brick oven if your house didn't come with one of those. (Mine didn't, so sad.) Another great way to choose something new at a restaurant is to focus on ordering items you like but never have time to prepare for yourself.
These tips all can help you enjoy different foods, while ensuring optimal nutrition for a healthy YOU!