28 March 2018Healthy Cooking for One: Tips to Stock your Kitchen and Quick Meal Ideas

Tired of broccoli five days in a row? Wondering why bread isn't sold by the slice? Whether you are new to cooking for one or just need an innovative jumpstart for some creative cooking ideas, here are tips on how to stock your kitchen and create meals for breakfast, lunch, and supper with ingredients you have at home.

Stocking your kitchen

A happy cook is one in which the kitchen is well-stocked and you do not have to run to the grocery store every time you need a can of chili beans or olive oil. Depending upon food allergies or preferences, a well-stocked kitchen that provides flexibility for quick or slow-cooked meals might include these items:

  1. Flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, olive oil and Canola oil, cinnamon, and your favorite spices in small amounts
  2. A variety of canned beans (from garbanzo to pinto beans), corn, fire roasted diced tomatoes, and your favorite soups
  3. Jars of pasta sauce, garden-style marinara (easy way to increase your vegetable intake), and low-fat Alfredo sauce
  4. Two different types of pasta (perfect for quick meals); try whole grain and mix with regular if you are new to whole grain pasta. Remember that regular pasta takes less time to cook.
  5. Cans of fruits packed in their own juices (instead of sugary syrups) for times at the end of the week when you don't have time to go to the grocery store. Bright orange fruits, such as apricots, peaches and mangoes are great sources of vitamin A which is important for improved immunity and night vision.
  6. Oatmeal (old-fashioned) and individual packets for a quick breakfast
  7. Two different types of frozen fruits for breakfast smoothies or afternoon snacks
  8. Two different types of frozen vegetables (to increase vegetables in sauces)
  9. Two cans of tuna packed in water, low-fat mayonnaise and pickles for a tuna sandwich
  10. For the refrigerator: milk, eggs, soft margarine (without trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils) or butter, ketchup, jam, salsa, yogurts, and pesto
  11. Cold cuts of cheeses and meats for sandwiches
  12. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy one of each item on sale for that week.
  13. Frozen chicken breasts and hamburger patties
  14. Whole grain sliced bread. And yes, you can remove a slice from the freezer and put in the toaster!

Of course, you will have items that you enjoy that are not on this list, so individualize this list to fit your needs.

Healthy cooking for one means that you need to plan and prepare a variety of foods from all five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy (or your favorite calcium source) and meat or meat alternatives. Create a healthy plate with color which means that at least half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Favorite Breakfast, Lunches and Dinners:

Breakfast for one:

  1. Create your own granola mixture. Mix a variety of cereals, dried old-fashioned oats, nuts, and dried fruits. Add two tablespoons of low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk. Use different fruits, nuts and cereals to increase variety.
  2. Scramble two eggs and add your favorite finely chopped vegetables (ex: frozen spinach, pre-roasted vegetables) and cheese (ex: feta, gruyere, mozzarella or sharp cheddar). Wrap it in a whole grain tortilla and top with spicy tomato salsa to increase your antioxidant intake with the natural lycopene from the tomatoes.
  3. Blend up a smoothie with low fat Greek yogurt, a splash of low-fat milk, frozen fruit and a banana, and one tablespoon of peanut butter for a new twist and added protein and iron.
  4. Whip up your own sunny-side up egg sandwich, by toasting a whole grain English muffin, spreading with mashed avocado, topping with a sunny-side up egg topped with melted cheese and a thin slice of roasted ham. Don't forget to add a slice of fresh tomato.
  5. Try toasted warm whole grain bagel with peanut butter, cut up banana slices and a drizzle of honey on top. Enjoy with a small glass of orange juice which will increase the absorption of the iron from your peanut butter!

Lunch for one:

  1. Bowls: On the weekend, make quinoa, roasted vegetables and grill some chicken breast. Then, put in a portable container and bring to work. Add a homemade sauce/dressing, pesto or buy a new flavor of dressing (such as avocado cilantro) or a spicy curry for a new twist.
  2. Quesadillas: Cheese and whole wheat tortillas with sautéed vegetables inside and then dipped in spicy salsa can be a delicious and nutritious lunch. Add a crispy apple for dessert.
  3. Tomato Salad: Cut a large tomato into fourths. In the center place, a mixture of tuna, cottage cheese and fresh parsley. Add some whole grain crackers on the side and hummus with carrots for a filling lunch.
  4. When you cook dinner, double your ingredients, so that you have plenty for leftovers. Freezing leftovers for the following week in individual containers is a good option to decrease repetition and boredom.

Dinners for one:

  1. Freshen-up a traditional Mexican bowl with crisp ingredients. Top your beans and rice with sharp cheddar cheese and then sprinkle with fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes and chopped cucumbers for added crunch.
  2. Omelets with fresh vegetables. If you buy a head of broccoli, use part of it on a chef salad and roast the rest to add to omelets and other bowls you make for lunches.
  3. Buy a frozen meal, something you would not normally make, like Indian chicken masala, and have it handy in the freezer. Add some carrot sticks and an orange cut up in wedges for more fruits and vegetables.
  4. Enhancing pre-made meals: Some meals just need a little love to create a delicious dinner.
    • Frozen Burritos. When heated, top with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, chopped red peppers, salsa and a chopped avocado.
    • Chicken noodle soup. Improve it by adding your own pre-cooked chopped rotisserie chicken and a bag of mixed vegetables. Eat with whole grain crackers and make a side dish of freshly cut up fruit.

By stocking your kitchen and planning your meals for the week with some of these simple breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas, cooking for one will be healthy and delicious.

What is your favorite go-to meal when you are cooking for one? Please share - your friends at MyNetDiary want to know!

In good health,
Martha Henze

MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Breakfast Meal Planning & Diets/Lunch Meal Planning & Diets/Dinner

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