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Healthy Meal Tips for Empty Nesters

middle aged couple eating dinner together

Adjusting to life with kids out of the house can take some getting used to – on many fronts. One surprising difference is how you approach dinner. For some, that’s a welcome change after years of planning and preparing meals that everyone would enjoy. Still, that new freedom can sometimes lead to unhealthy habits, like eating out regularly or focusing on convenience over nutrition.

Sharon Katzman, RDN, registered dietitian at Atlantic Health System's Chambers Center for Well-Being and Shannon Roque, RDN, registered dietitian at Atlantic Health Metabolic Weight & Wellness Center, recently shared their advice on adopting and maintaining healthy eating habits during this time.

Make It Happen

We all know it’s important to eat healthy. Making those changes can be tough, though. Here are a few suggestions to help develop long lasting healthy eating habits:

  • Focus on lean protein and fiber. Complex carbohydrates only play a supporting role.
  • Eat more veggies and less meat. A plant-based diet offers many health benefits.
  • Make it convenient. Make meal prep easy with frozen or pre-cut veggies, pre-grilled chicken strips or microwaveable brown rice or quinoa.
  • Make extra and freeze what’s left. Just be sure to portion your meals. 
  • Think one or two days ahead. Planning for the entire week isn’t always feasible. Instead, try to just plan on one or two dinners ahead. 
  • Get to know your air fryer. An air fryer quickly and healthily prepares foods – without the additional oil or fats that come with traditional pan frying.

Check out this creative recipe that turns leftovers and common pantry ingredients into a tasty dish>


Be kind to yourself and remember that these changes won’t happen overnight. Just remember to do your best and focus on those veggies.

Sharon Katzman, RDN

healthy dinner out at a restaurant

Eating healthy when eating out

Many people love to enjoy a night out. Stay on track with these simple tips:

  • Make a plan. Decide what you’ll order before you arrive to avoid choosing your meal based on last-minute cravings.
  • Choose roasted, baked or broiled. Avoid foods that are crusty, batter-dipped or fried.
  • Drink right. Water is always the best option. If you are drinking alcohol, opt for a seltzer before dinner and wine with dinner to cut down on calories and sugar.
  • Substitute sides. Ask for veggies or another healthy option instead of pasta.

Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself during this time. 

 “It can really rock your world to have your kids out of the house,” shares Sharon. “Allow yourself to go through the mourning process. Connect with friends and share your experience. Be kind to yourself and remember that these changes won’t happen overnight. Just remember to do your best and focus on those veggies.”

middle aged couple hugging and smiling in the kitchen

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