When faced with the task of cooking for one or two people, we often find ourselves reaching for the takeout menu or hitting up the drive through. Those options seem simple enough, but they tend to take a toll on our health and our wallets when they become a regular habit. Here are a few tips to help make cooking for one or two more manageable.
Making a meal plan can help cut down on waste and break up the monotony of traditional meals for one. Sketch out at least your suppers for the week and be mindful to use ingredients several ways. Especially with produce, if we don’t plan on incorporating an ingredient in more than one meal, it often gets forgotten and left to decay in the crisper. If you buy a bag of spinach for the week start off with a spinach salad, toss some in a smoothie, sauté some with garlic and mix with pasta and chicken, and throw the rest in some soup with your leftover chicken.
Another way to cut down on waste and increase variety when cooking for one is to avoid overbuying ingredients. Shop in the bulk bins or get single servings at the meat and seafood counter so you only buy what you can use. Don’t purchase too much fresh produce at once- use your meal plan to figure out how much you will realistically eat that week. Make sure to have some frozen veggies and fruits on hand so you’ll always have a produce option. Bread products, such as breads, rolls, and tortillas, can be stored in the freezer and thawed when needed as well.
If you enjoy cooking but can’t finish the leftovers you can freeze leftovers in single serve portions or you can try to scale the recipe down so you don’t have so many leftovers. Some recipes are hard to scale down for just one serving, but you could get it down to 2-3 servings to have a manageable amount of leftovers. Another option is to cook simple meals that include single servings of your protein, veggie, and grain. You can roast a single serving of chicken or fish on a baking pan pan with your vegetables and, at the same time, microwave some instant brown rice with a little low sodium broth, and slice some fruit for dessert.
Here are some other simple single-serve meal ideas: Veggie omelet, yogurt and fruit parfait, oatmeal, smoothie bowl, panini, meat and veggie wrap, quesadilla, salad, loaded baked potato, black bean burrito, pasta with veggies and sauce, etc.
Dietitian’s tip: Frittata is an Italian omelet with cheese, meat or vegetables mixed into the eggs rather than being folded inside the eggs. This version uses egg whites instead of whole eggs to reduce the calories, fat and cholesterol.
Recipe from: Mayo Clinic Staff
- ½ red or green pepper, diced
- 4 fresh mushrooms, sliced (about ½ cup)
- 6 egg whites
- ½ cup salsa, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
- ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
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Heat the broiler. Position the rack 4 inches from the heat source. Lightly coat a heavy, ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Place on the stove over medium heat and add peppers and mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, wish together the egg whites and ½ cup salsa. Pour egg white mixture into the skillet with the vegetables and cook until partially set, about 5 minutes. Don’t attempt to blend or scramble the mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese
Place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and eggs are set, about 5 minutes. Divide the frittata in half and spoon onto individual plates. Garnish with 1 tablespoon of salsa.
Nutritional information: Calories 190, fat 10 g, saturated fat 6 g, sodium 600 mg, carbohydrate 7 g, fiber 2 g, protein 19 g
Dietitian’s tip: To save time, double or triple the batch and place uncooked, prepared pizzas in the freezer for later.
Recipe from: Mayo Clinic Staff
- 1 (6-inch) whole-wheat pita loaf
- ¼ cup marinara
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- 2 tablespoons sliced button mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons diced pineapple
- 2 tablespoons diced bell pepper
- 3 tablespoons part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat feta cheese
- 1 teaspoons turkey bacon bits
Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the pita on the baking sheet. Spread marinara over the pita. Top pizza with onion, mushrooms, pineapple and peppers; sprinkle with cheeses and bacon bits. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
Nutritional information: Calories 325, fat 17 g, saturated fat 3 g, sodium 820 mg, carbohydrate 48 g, fiber 4 g, protein 17 g
Romi Londre is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.