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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: January 16, 2014

Eating Well While

Eating Alone

Eating well while living alone isn’t easy for anyone of any age. But it’s more difficult if you’re 59 or older; that is, if you are among the group they call seniors. Or you may be among the many people who are no longer sharing a home with a partner. Malnutrition among seniors appears to be particularly severe among women who are widows. Chris Rosenblum, a professor of nutrition, has found that the effect of widowhood on nutrition is profound. Her study revealed that 98 percent of those married experience eating as a pleasurable event. In contrast, only 26 percent of the widowed felt the same way. Rosenblum further indicates that “women in particular, as caregivers, don’t prepare meals (anymore) and now don’t see the value in taking care of themselves.” So not surprisingly, 50 percent of widowed people Rosenblum studied ate simply out of habit or to keep from starving.

The nutritional picture for senior men and women becomes even more problematic when seniors are ill or disabled. They are unable to cook for themselves, manage everyday tasks at home and even fill their cupboards and refrigerators with food supplies. Poverty is another related problem since the elderly depend upon retirement accounts or government assistance to meet their needs. Cutbacks in assistance, inflation of food, energy and housing costs compromises their ability to financially care for themselves. And because many women in particular have outlived their spouses and must now support the household alone, they are even more likely to suffer financial difficulties.

Still, eating well can be done without great hardship if a few helpful guidelines are followed. The overarching premise of these guidelines is that a diet rich in nutrients helps prevent osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Here are a few suggestions that can make a difference as proposed by the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 35 Puget Sound area agencies in Seattle, WA, dedicated to the health and well-being of seniors.

1. Spices, herbs, variety and color add meal appeal and reduce sodium intake. Further a diet that follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid provides the nutrients that help fight disease and the effects of aging.

2. Set the table with your best dishes and play your favorite music. Caring about your eating environment is another way of helping to maintain a healthy attitude and one’s self respect.

3. Invite a friend or neighbor for dinner; eat out at a family style where people sit together; or attend a Senior Center meal with other older adults.

4. For convenience buy healthy frozen entrées at your local grocery, canned foods and ready to eat packaged foods. Be sure to check labels for sodium and fat content.

5. Prepare a pot of stew or cook a casserole that can be divided up into smaller portions and frozen.

6. Eat smaller more frequent meals if you don’t have the appetite for three large ones.

7. Prevent tooth decay by selecting foods and beverages that are low in sugar.

8. If you are on a tight budget, compare prices, shop less frequently, and stick to a list.

9. Make low cost foods, including beans, rice and frozen vegetables.

10. Consider applying for SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program.) It’s a simple process.

Here are two recipes for Swiss Chard Casserole that are nutritious, delicious and filling. Either is easy to make in advance and both are ideal for preparing healthy meals. Freezing can be a good idea but only when the ingredients and the dish itself are good for you. Choose one recipe. I am recommending that you cut these dishes into 3 x 3 inch square packages, each wrapped in cellophane and foil to freeze, marked clearly with the name and date on each package. Use a large casserole dish, also called a gratin dish, 14 x 10. Bake the dish at 350F, 30 minutes until brown on top.

Recipe #1

Baked Chard with 3 Cheeses Layered with Béchamel, lightly toasted breadcrumbs; Parmagian Reggiano, mozzarella, Finlandia; 2 tsp. each ground sage, marjoram, red chile flakes, black pepper and 2 tsp nutmeg.

Recipe #2

Baked Chard with 1 Cheese layered with lightly toasted breadcrumbs; Parmagian Reggiano, 2 tsp. each ground sage, marjoram, red chile flakes, black pepper and 2 tsp. nutmeg.


Wash and remove the ribs from 2 bunches of red chard. Cut the leaves into 2x2 inch pieces. Sauté one bunch at a time in a large skillet with 3 tbsps. of olive oil. After completing this step, set the 2 bunches of sautéed chard to the side in a separate bowl. Toss ½ cup of each of the chesses plus the bread crumbs and spices in a large bowl, In the casserole dish, layer the mixture of cheeses, breadcrumbs and spices with the the chard leaves. Spread the cheeses on the top and bottom layers. Add béchamel with recipe #1. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is brown.

Béchamel White Sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt                                                                            

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden color, about 6 to 7 minutes

Heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.