Empty-nesters, don't fill up on food


Many couples in their 40s and 50s are discovering that an hTC "empty nest" leads to weight gain. Shopping and cooking habits suitable for hungry teen-agers are hard to break.

Take stock of your larder now.

before you have a lot to lose.

For two or three weeks, plan menus for the two of you, just to get a fix on how much (or how little) food you really need.

Plan "ideal" meals based on the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines

*Limit entree portions.

A 3-ounce serving of lean meat, poultry, fish or shellfish is enough, nutritionally, for any meal, even for the man of the house. This takes some getting used to, but it's a great place to save both dollars (for college tuition?) and calories. If money is no object, invest in quality rather than quantity. Indulge in beef filet, shrimp, lobster, scallops or salmon.

*Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Two to four servings of fruit each day should include citrus fruit or juice as well as melons and berries for vitamin C.

Three to five servings of vegetables each day should often include dark green leafy and deep yellow vegetables for beta carotene. But all vegetables count. One-half cup of dried beans or peas equal a serving of vegetable or 1 ounce of "meat."

*Don't forget breads and cereals, rice, barley and pasta. Six to 11 servings are right, depending on your sex, size and level of activity.

*You never outgrow your need for dairy food.

Two daily servings of lowfat or skim milk, yogurt or cheese are essential for calcium, protein and vitamins.

Buy only what you plan

Until you get the hang of small-quantity shopping, make a list based on your menus. Stick to it.

Cook just enough

Eliminate temptations. Cook only what you need for each meal. Fill plates in the kitchen and keep serving bowls off the table. If you must have "seconds" have more veggies, bread and potatoes.

Indulge in dessert weekly

Finish most of your meals with fruit, either fresh, frozen or canned in juice. Occasionally have dried fruit straight from the box or stewed in a spicy compote.

But if you really love sweets, indulge once a week. Exercise control at the store. Buy one serving each from a bakery or sweet shop so you can enjoy without overindulging.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

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