By Gwenn Voelckers
With the worse of the pandemic behind us and with summer in full swing, restaurant traffic is booming. And it’s no wonder.
After being cooped up for so long, people are ready to hang up their aprons, get out of the house and enjoy dining out – like ol’ times.
I know I am!
It’s great to spend time with friends in a new place, soaking up the atmosphere, and trying new foods.
But a steady diet of eating out is not possible for me, nor would it be my preference. Among other things, it would gobble up my budget!
I enjoy preparing simple, healthy meals at home and taking myself “out” to eat at my kitchen counter, dining room table, or back patio.
But this hasn’t always been the case. After my divorce, I found dining alone at home to be one of my biggest challenges.
While living alone gives you the freedom to dine as you please (one of its many benefits!), I don’t recommend eating breakfast for dinner or munching through a bag of Cheetos as a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced meal.
When it comes to eating alone at home, treat yourself as you would treat a good friend you are having over for dinner. Why? Because you are worth it.
When you prepare and enjoy a good meal on your own, you’ll be sending yourself a valuable message: It’s important to take good care of myself and to treat myself with respect. I matter enough to nurture—and feed—myself with care.
Eating well and right has all kinds of benefits. And what better way to start enjoying those benefits than by creating an inviting table for one in your own home.
Below are a few tips to help you get started:
• Stock your kitchen with healthy food. It’s so much easier to put a healthy meal on the table when the good stuff is plentiful and the junk food is in short supply. I’m fully aware of my own downfalls (ice cream, nuts, cookies, chips) and don’t regularly stock these items in my kitchen.
Instead, I have on hand a good supply of frozen and fresh vegetables, prepackaged salad greens, fruits in season, and single-serve portions of frozen meat and fish. You’ll also find plenty of grab-and-go power bars in my pantry for when I’m on the run.
• Indulge your senses. Stimulate your appetite by preparing something that produces a wonderful, delicious aroma. My go-to appetite stimulant? I love the scent of sautéed garlic and jump-start many a solo dining experience with a little butter and garlic in my stove-top skillet.
The aroma invites me into the cooking process and in no time, I’m focused on cutting and chopping instead of the worries and stresses of my day.
To keep things interesting, I also try to incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables into each meal, which is recommended by nutrition experts. The colors often correspond with important nutrients that may provide health benefits.
• Select the best seat in the house. While eating in front of the TV may be the perfect choice on some occasions, I encourage you to find dining spaces inside or outside your home that may offer more inspiration.
Chances are, you’ll appreciate the change of scenery. Consider that special nook where the sun filters in or that table by the window with the great view. Mix it up, experiment with different settings, and discover what feels best in the moment.
• Set the stage. Create a pleasing table setting and mood that feels comfortable for you. I like to put down a placemat, use a cloth napkin, turn on some enjoyable music and position a good book, magazine, or iPad within reach.
You might even light a candle. I do, especially in the evening. Its warm glow gives me a good, comfy feeling.
If you’ve never set the stage like this before, it can feel contrived at first, but stay with it. Over time, I’m confident you’ll find it as enjoyable and relaxing as I have.
• Enjoy your own company. When you eat alone, you’re in the company of someone special − yourself! You are with someone who approves of your meal choices and cooking techniques, appreciates the candle you lit and knows that life and good food are to be savored and enjoyed.
Creating a pleasant “table for one” is a great opportunity to focus on yourself and to nourish your body and spirit at the same time. So, pull up a chair, say a few words of gratitude and enjoy your meal.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite Voelckers to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com