It's no secret that the key a man's heart is through his stomach. Thanks to my dear friend Andrew Johnson, I now have evidence that the old adage is indeed true. He never turns down a homemade meal. Well, that's not totally true; I do remember that he refused my quinoa salad one time, which was a mistake because it was delicious. Let me tell you the story of how I made new friends and got men to cook for me...

Back in November I bought a few cooking pumpkins, not yet really knowing how I was going to use them in my cooking. Sure enough I ran out of time to cook with them before I went home for the holidays. My brand new roommate, who shares my passion for cooking, offered to help me cook down my pumpkins so I could freeze them and use them when I got back from the holiday break. Several hours, mild carpel tunnel syndrome, and massive amounts of pumpkin puree later, our mission was complete.

I didn't realize it at the time, but chopping an uncooked pumpkin is quite laborious--and not the most efficient way to cook pumpkins. I learned from my experience: The best way to cook members of the squash family is to slice them in half and place them face down in a baking pan with a small amount of liquid layering the bottom of the pan. After baking for 50 to 60 minutes, scrape the meat of the squash away from the skin and voila!

Back to the story. One day, after re-arranging my freezer, I found the large container of pumpkin puree. I decided it was time to defrost the fruits--well, vegetables--of my labor and create a masterpiece pumpkin dish. After searching high and low for savory pumpkin recipes I settled on homemade pumpkin ravioli. Due to the delicacy of my newfound recipe I lured my teammate Andrew and his two roommates over for dinner after practice. I desperately wanted to share my fun new recipe, and it was a perfect opportunity to meet more of the rowers who train with me in Oklahoma City. (Rowers are really good eaters. Even a recipe gone bad doesn't intimidate the appetite of a hungry rower.)

My dinner guests arrived around 7 PM. I hadn't yet stuffed the ravioli because I had just returned home after a busy day of training and work, and thus my theory about how to make new friends and get men to cook for you was born. I figured we were all so hungry that if we cooked together we could eat sooner, so I put everyone to work. I quickly taught the guys how to make ravioli using wonton wrappers as the ravioli noodle. They did a great job making the ravioli and it tasted delicious. I only supervised and made the side dishes.

It took more time than I anticipated, but we made a delicious meal--probably one of my favorite evenings since I relocated 11 months ago. Dinner that night tasted better than it would have had I been eating alone because I had such great company. Meal sharing is a powerful tool for weight management. On one hand it can unknowingly contribute to overconsumption of food through distracted eating, extended meal times, and social pressures. On the other hand, it can help individuals effortlessly manage food intake without needing outlandish dieting methods or restrictive eating. For children this is particularly true; study after study shows the benefits of family meals for children and adolescents. Sharing family meals contributes to better grades, healthier eating habits, stronger interpersonal relationships, and resiliency to negative peer pressure or other life stresses.

Having a dinner party? Consider these tips to prevent overeating:

  • Leave serving dishes and second helpings out of sight from the dinner table--at least 6 feet.
  • Order half-size portions at a restaurant to avoid exercising the "Clean Plate Club" membership.
  • Find the person who appears to be eating the least or the slowest and do what they do.
  • Only eat while you are sitting at a distraction-free table (no television, cell phone, or computer on in the background)

In closing, I want to say thank you to my new friends at the training center in Oklahoma City for sharing meals with me. As full time athletes we don't always get a chance to travel home for the holidays and it can be lonely at times. However, the camaraderie of the high performance team is invaluable to my training. You are an outstanding group of athletes and you are always welcome in my home.

Eat Well,

Emma Preuschl

Emma Preuschl is a Registered Dietitian, 2012 Paralympian, and 2008 Paralympic Silver Medalist in Rowing. The Peanut Butter Diaries chronicles her life as a health professional, food lover, and athlete.