As Kevin McCallister once demonstrated, being home alone can lead to a pizza and ice cream-filled party for one. Now, a study proves that our dining decisions are, indeed, affected by the absence of other people in the house.
According to a study by the Queensland University of Technology, people who eat alone are more likely to make unhealthy choices. Solo home cooks were less likely to eat fruits and vegetables and more likely to go for ready-made meals. Diversity was another thing missing from the diets of people who live alone.
"Our results found that people who live alone have a lower diversity of food intake and a lower consumption of some core food groups like fruits and vegetables and fish," said Dr. Katherine Hanna, from the Queensland University of Technology, in a statement.
Lack of accountability
A number of factors could be contributing to the unhealthy eating habits of single people. But first, the researchers point to the lack of accountability to others. With no one there to stop you from ordering take out for the third time this week, you’re more likely to follow through with it. Similarly, there’s no one there to encourage you to eat well.
Additionally, the absence of the social pleasures of cooking and dining with roommates or family can lead to unhealthy choices. Humans are social creatures, and the dinner table is one of our favorite places to congregate. But when you’re sitting at a dinner table for one, there may be less of a desire to whip up an impressive, nutritious meal
The researchers also note that a lack of cooking skills might also be part of the problem. This may especially be true for men or individuals who may previously have relied on a partner to cook, such as the divorced or widowed. In the study, single men had poorer diets than females.
The study -- published in the online journal, Nutrition Reviews -- adds support to the argument that loneliness can be a predictor of poor nutrition. In 2011, researchers compared the difference in diets of elderly people who live alone to those who live with family.
People who were their home’s sole occupant were at an increased risk of malnutrition. They also had a reduced number of daily meals overall and a significantly lower daily intake of protein, fruits, and vegetables in their diet when compared to those who lived with others.
So what can you do if you live alone? Dr. Hanna suggests seeking out, "cooking skills programs and recipes that focus on preparation of meals for one person across a range of budgets.” She also suggests getting out there and finding an opportunity to eat in a communal setting.