Many people have asked me for healthy meal ideas when cooking for one over the years. Food waste, cost, and time constraints leave many people reaching for macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza, night after night. This food rut can be pretty lousy for both physical and emotional well-being. The good news is that there are plenty of nutritious meals that you can quickly prepare for yourself. All it takes is a little creativity and a willingness to try new things. These tips will get you started down the path to delicious meals for one. Be sure to check out this free handout detailing 10 Quick and Healthy Meals When Eating Solo. If you’re a dietitian or other healthcare professional, this type of resource will be helpful to many of your clients, so keep a few copies on hand.
Stock Your Kitchen
You’ll want to keep several items in your pantry and refrigerator to create quick meals when you have nothing planned, and you’re hungry.
- Greens (spinach, arugula, kale, etc.)
- Sweet potatoes
- Lemons and limes
- Canned beans
- Chicken breasts
- Frozen fish filets
- Canned tuna
- Pasta sauce
- Spices and herbs (if you’re unsure where to start, maybe pick up salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes)
- Olive oil
Still, Plan Out Your Meals Whenever Possible
You’ll be much less likely to reach for the delivery menu if you have a plan, even when you’re cooking for one. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup or broiled salmon and a salad. The point is to include several food groups in your meal.
Purchase Small Portions of Prepared Vegetables
If your local grocery store offers small containers of diced vegetables, bags of shredded carrots, or small containers of cooked beets, pick them up. Even though they are more expensive, ounce for ounce, they might be cheaper in the long run if they prevent food waste.
Don’t Be Afraid of Leftovers.
Leftovers are often better tasting than the first night! If you don’t want to eat the same food twice in a row, reimagine it into something else. Use your stir-fry vegetables to make a soup or your roasted vegetables to make a hash. Save the Food offers dozens of ideas for how to make your last meal into something new and fresh.
Consider Purchasing a Few Appliances
A toaster oven and a small crockpot will make your life much easier as you learn to cook for one. These appliances save energy, money, and time compared to other cooking methods or reliance on convenience and restaurant foods.
Lastly, enjoy your food. What is the point of spending time in the kitchen if it’s not something that you like? So many people force themselves to eat foods that they truly don’t care for, such as bland chicken breast or plain eggs. If you want to take a break from cooking dinner and crave a bowl of cereal, go ahead, but choose a healthy one.