A Guide to Cooking For One
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
May 19, 2020
For those of us who live alone, creating new meal ideas every day can seem tedious if not daunting. When we only have ourselves to feed, the motivation to prepare new meals each and every day can sometimes feel like it’s not worth the effort.
As someone who has had to cook for myself for years, I used to resort to take-out or prepackaged meals far too often – and my health (and mood) suffered for it. But now, planning my meals and spending time in the kitchen is actually one of the things I look forward to most in my day. Really! And believe me, culinary skills don’t come easily to me, but that doesn’t stop me from finding joy in the cooking experience. One of the biggest perks is I get to choose what’s on the menu without having to cater to others – but it’s critical that I plan ahead. As a left-brained thinker (the reason why I’m a clinical nutritionist and not an artistic chef!), I look at planning meals as a simple equation, what I like to call the power of three: protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates. As long as I know I’ve got those three categories of real food in balance on my plate, I know I’m setting myself up for success.
To help you gain a better understanding of what that may look like, I’ve laid out a sample of my go-to meals as a person cooking for just myself.
My go-to is two eggs scrambled with butter ½ cup of berries and 2 Tbsp peanut butter. So simple, but tasty and balanced!
To make ahead: If I have a busy work week coming, I like to make an egg bake in muffin tins to last me through the week. I like to switch it up with different veggies each time and even substitute the normal hash browns for sweet potatoes (yum!). These can be quickly heated up each morning either before or at work (or at home … which is where most of us are right now). Plus the egg bake is already balanced with eggs and sausage for protein, heavy cream (or coconut milk for a dairy-free option) for a healthy fat, and mixed veggies and potatoes for a carb.
For a mid-morning snack to keep me going until lunch I tend to want something sweet. My go-to these days has been Protein Hot Cocoa. Who knew hot cocoa could be a balanced snack?! And it’s so delicious you’ll never need to go back to the coffee shop! I use full-fat coconut milk as the base with protein powder and chocolate Key Greens for flavor. (The espresso or chocolate flavors taste great warmed up too!)
Drinking this between breakfast and lunch is a great way to keep my blood sugar balanced with little effort. It’s also worked great for my clients who don’t have time to take a snack break during a busy day!
I like to make a batch of one of these salads every few days, rotating the protein to keep up a variety. Whether hard-boiling some eggs, using a rotisserie chicken, or wild-caught canned salmon, it makes for a simple balanced meal and very cost effective, too. I even sometimes eat a smaller portion for my afternoon snack, scooped with a handful of Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free crackers.
One of my favorite, easy snacks (and my clients’, too!), are deli meat roll-ups. I take two ounces of nitrate-free deli meat, spread on a tablespoon of full-fat cream cheese or avocado, then roll in up on a pickle, or sliced veggies (baby cucumbers, carrot sticks, celery, or even bell pepper strips work great). Simple, cost effective and satisfies that need for a crunch in an afternoon snack!
Salmon can seem intimidating to make at home but Salmon Bake is a great entry point. For many it’s a dish that’s only ordered at restaurants for a special occasion. But it is actually one of my go-to weeknight meals because this bake is so easy. I buy frozen, wild-caught salmon to save money. Plus, the fish don’t lose nutrients when frozen right after being caught. Then roast the salmon filet along with your veggies of choice (I like to buy frozen, pre-cut veggies for cost and time-effectiveness) or top a bed of greens and mixed veggies to make a salad. You’ll be surprised at how quick and easy it is.
Not a fish fan? Swap out the salmon for any animal protein. The same idea can be used whether substituting with chicken breasts, burger patties, pork chops, etc.
That’s a wrap on a solo day of (healthy and delicious) eating, thanks for tagging along! Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to spend more time in the kitchen – and you can find dozens of more ideas in our recipe index. At Nutritional Weight & Wellness we always try to focus on the simplicity of eating real foods in balance. Whether cooking for one or an entire family, we work with clients every day to help create practical, satisfying, and nutritious meals. To find out more about nutritional counseling, visit here or call our knowledgeable front desk staff at 651-699-3438.