One day we realized that we had been eating more than we ever had and neither of us had gained an ounce.  In fact, we were thinner than we’d ever been and had been for over two years-which was about the time we’d started cooking on Sundays.  We both struggled with weight and we both possessed the two wardrobes of the chronic dieter.   We struggled before we had children so we’re not talking about post-pregnancy weight.  In fact, it was so post-pregnancy that the kids were eating solid food and potty trained.  “Oh honey, don’t you want that last chicken nugget?”  “No?” and in to your mouth it goes. The crust of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the last couple french fries, the hot fudge, puddled in the bottom of the ice cream sundae bowl.  You know the drill.  Back and forth on the scale, it seemed we were always playing with that 10-20 pounds.

English: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, m...

When we started cooking, we didn’t give one tiny little thought to low fat, non fat, low cholesterol, low calorie cooking.  We wanted the good stuff.  Short ribs, braised in a red wine sauce and served with mashed potatoes with butter.  Macaroni and cheese but with big girl cheeses – fontina, parmigiano reggiano-made with heavy cream and topped with fresh asparagus and panchetta.  A lemon mousse cake made with a pint of heavy cream, a half pound of butter and eight eggs.  Homemade bread with Parma butter. IMG_0012IMG_0011   Not the stuff that diets are made of.   So why were we thinner?  We weren’t exercising more.  We certainly weren’t eating less.  What was different?   Ingredients.   We were shopping at Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market.  We found a butcher, a place to buy fresh eggs and the produce auction. sandyspic14 003

Sandy's Pics - 1 002

We were cooking things that should have made us gain weight but we started losing weight.  Our bodies decided on their own, what a good weight would be, and there we stabilized.  We were thin, something we’d only been periodically in our lives, and we now had only one wardrobe.


We don’t buy organic unless we can afford it.  We don’t buy anything in a box, a can or in the frozen food aisle unless everything on the label can be found in a kitchen.  If you don’t want to bake cookies, Trader Joe’s has a lot of cookies that fit that criteria.  But if you buy a box of Oreos, for example, you might see a pound or two at the end of the week. IMG_0388 A Granny Smith apple from a good grocery store that was still green and unblemished after almost a year made us realize that even the best of grocery stores can be suspect so we try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables and none that have been waxed.

sandyspics10 025

We use lots and lots of butter:  to thicken sauces in place of flour, to bake, on breads, on vegetables.  Once in awhile we treat ourselves to a butter from France or Italy, but that’s a splurge.  We buy our butter at Trader Joe’s.  The only ingredient is cream and it’s far cheaper than other well known brands of butter.  Being dessert lovers, we buy a lot of sugar, organic sugar, again at Trader Joe’s.  It’s at least $2.00 a pound cheaper than anywhere else.  Dried fruit, nuts, flour, organice catsup, cream cheese, marscapone, heavy cream, all cheaper at Trader Joe’s and all good.   So maybe, we should call this the Trader Joe’s diet – the Surprise, Surprise, You’re Thin: Trader Joe’s Diet.  But then we’d be leaving out the butcher and the egg lady.

Trader Joe's West Hartford facade

It’s all in the ingredients.  Although we bought only fresh when the kids were little, we were buying in the age when convenience and shelf appeal trumped freshness and nutrition and frankly, flavor.  We hope that no harm was done and we’re happy to see that on their own, they buy better and smarter than we did.

So that’s the Empty Nest diet.  It’s no diet at all.  After the first time you make a cake from scratch,  a salad dressing, a sauce,  a stock when you would usually use a mix, a box or a bottle, you’ll be surprised at how quick and easy it becomes.

And that seems to be all it takes.


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11 Responses to THE EMPTY NEST DIET

  1. some very good to know information

  2. snati001 says:

    Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. TBM says:

    Cool. I’m not a big fan of diets to begin with 🙂

  4. Always inspired reading your posts and seeing the beautiful photos, too. We have a Trader Joe’s nearby….might have to dip in today to pick up “better” ingredients. What a wonderful benefit – to be a bit lighter!

  5. thank you so much. it’s funny how much a store can change the way you see food. of course, you have a lot more choices than we do. we’re envious of that.

  6. likeitiz says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Wonder if you heard of Michael Pollan, who has written so much about all this. Some of his many “commandments” are:
    1. If your grandmother will not recognize it as food, don’t eat it.
    2. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient or the ingredient list reads like a pharmacopeia, don’t eat it.

    You get the drift. He’s a Journalism professor at Cal who likes to garden on the weekends. Then he developed an interest in the whole industry of food here in the US. And like the good journalist he is, he started doing intensive research, even interviewing farmers. The result is all these wonderful reading like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, The Botany of Desire, to name a few.

    And yes, he’s Tracy Pollan’s brother.

    • yes, we do know Michael Pollan. We love the grandmother line because we have often thought of how our grandmothers cooked and even how we ate as children. we always bought all our produce from local farms. I am hopeful that as more people realize how much better food tastes when it is grown or raised the way it was meant to, we will see the comeback of small farms and even big farms that farm in the old ways. It seems to be happening slowly so we’re hopeful.

  7. Real food takes care of us. Glad you are enjoying it. You made me want to go make a cake.

  8. Carrie says:

    Love that cake.

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