If you have kids who have gone off to college, you’ll find yourself answering “How’s the empty nest??” more times than you’ll care to count.  You’ll realize that the nest is seldom “empty” for long and follows six week cycles of kids home and away again.  Enjoy these “empty” weeks as time to focus on being a renewed couple – rediscovering simple pleasures together with vitality.  Cooking and sharing meals with your partner can be a special ritual and you will soon discover that there is no loss in the empty nest – just “renewed couples” and it’s great!

Do you miss buying three different kinds of orange juice?  Making your 6,059th peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  Cooking something new every night?  It is liberating and exciting to focus on what YOU want to eat and foods that fit into a healthier BA50 lifestyle.   Shopping, planning and cooking meals for two, however, will require some new skills and strategies.  Here are my top 7 ideas to get you started:

1.  Plan 3-4 dinners at the beginning of the week.  Make a list of ingredients you will need.  After cooking for a family for years, you will need less food, and the tendency is to buy too much and “impulse buy”, if you don’t have a list.  Who will really eat those 10 bags of jalapeno string cheese that were on sale?

2.  Eat lean protein.  Fish, chicken, and turkey are good choices.  Limit consumption of red meat and choose lean cuts.

3.  Load up on veggies and fruits.  Go to a local produce market and purchase something you’ve never tried – a new kind of mango, star fruit, broccoli rabe or kale.  Discover new flavors at a farmers market.  Go fresh when possible and avoid canned vegetables which are loaded with sodium.

4.  Befriend tofu.  Tofu is nutritious, affordable and versatile.  It can be baked, grilled, stir fried, pureed…you name it.  It absorbs the flavors of what it is cooked with and can be dipped in many tasty sauces.

5.  Use a slow cooker for days that you are on the go.  Nothing is better than coming home to a cooked, hot dinner and a great smelling kitchen.

6.  Cook meals that do double duty.  Leftover chicken or steak on Monday becomes fajitas on Tuesday.  By cooking more than you need for one meal, you can reduce the amount of cooking you will need to do and have more time to watch a movie or go out for a stroll together.

7.  Don’t forget sweet endings.  Dessert can be a shared “sinful” dessert, or strawberries dipped in chocolate, sorbets, biscotti with coffee.  Go for the splurge dessert, but not every night.

Your empty nest is really a full one  – full of the many new possibilities and positive directions for yourself and your partner.  And you may even start to like tofu along the way!

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