Something I hear from my clients again and again is that cooking for just themselves is too much effort. They either pop a couple of bits of bread in the toaster, grab a couple of biscuits with a cup of tea or have nothing.
If a client has depression or is in recovering from an eating disorder, cooking just for one can seem totally overwhelming and not worthwhile.
I totally understand that, I also eat alone 80% of the time and sometimes it can seem a little like a chore; however one of our most basic human needs is a need for nutritious foods to keep us physically and emotionally healthy.
What happens when we decide we are not worthy nor have the self respect to eat when we are alone, is more than simply low energy or fatigue. If this very basic need isn’t met it is very difficult for any of our other needs to be met and we will fail to achieve our full potential. In order to feel secure and safe, our physiological needs for food and water, warmth and rest need to be met. For our love needs to be met, our safety needs need to be met, for our esteem needs we need our love needs to be met and so on.
All other needs are secondary until our physiological needs are met; and there is one person responsible for ensuring our physiological needs are met. US.
If the only reason we aren’t cooking or eating dinner is because there is no one else to cook for or eat with, then we need to start developing a positive habit of eating even when no one else is watching.
To make it easier to cook and eat alone; here are my top tips;
1. Change your mindset
From altering your mindset from seeing cooking and eating alone as a chore to a pleasure can not only make cooking bearable but make it enjoyable. When we cook for ourselves, we literally only have one person to please – us, there is no one we have to listen to about their day, no one to quiz us, no one to be polite to, no one’s needs we need to take into consideration, no one to serve.
2. Plan in advance
Take a look at your schedule and anyone else that is sometimes in the house, plan in the days you are cooking alone and plan ahead of time what you will cook. If you can dedicate half an hour cooking for your partner or your kids, you can definitely dedicate half an hour meeting your own needs. You are deserving of nutritious, delicious food too.
3. Don’t over complicate things
To create a “balanced” meal choose a source of protein – fish, poultry, lentils, eggs; next choose a starchy wholegrain or carbohydrate you enjoy – sweet potatoes, new potatoes, rice, pasta, wraps, rice, next add in the vegetable you love – carrots, beetroot, spinach, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers.
One pot dishes are great as it means hardly any washing up or fiddling about – salads are great and so easy, I usually make a base salad for a few days – spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, sweetcorn, peppers, cucumber then add different toppings – tuna and new potatoes, chickpeas and rice, chicken and pasta. These are great for lunch too.
4. Spoil yourself
You don’t just have to save candles for date night or a nice glass of wine for girls night; create an enjoyable space to eat dinner alone. Be mindful and enjoy what you have made; if you are in recovery from an eating disorder it may be easier to eat with distraction such as television on for the first few times of eating alone.
5. If you are tired there is nothing wrong with easy options
There are so many nourishing “take aways” and “ready meals” now that if you are tired or not feeling like getting the saucepans out then drop into the supermarket on the way home and pick up a high quality ready meal and mixed salad. Try and opt for a dish with wholegrains as a source of carbohydrates, at least 20g protein and around 400kcals.
The same for take aways, opt for dry curries with lentil or rice sides; if you choose pizza ask for half cheese, extra vegetables and a thin base, or at a thai try a fresh curry with tofu or chicken with rice noodles.
The main thing to remember when you feel those “can’t be bothered to cook” thoughts coming in to play is that you are deserving of delicious food that will nourish your mind and body when you are in company … and when you are alone, and you are more than worthy.
Live life fully