Cooking Healthy for One

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By Recipe Team on July 30, 2020

Living solo has plenty of benefits. You don’t have to share the remote or wait your turn for the shower, you can decorate to your own tastes and bedtime is whenever you say it is.

But when it comes to cooking, being a household of one gets trickier. When you open a cookbook or pull up a recipe online, you usually see these words: “makes 4 servings.”

Following the directions on a package often yields similarly oversized portions (we’re looking at you, pasta box).

And how many times have you faced the disappointment of buying some beautiful fresh produce, only to have it spoil before you can finish even half of it?

"Because of the real and perceived difficulties of cooking for one, single people often eat out, get takeout, rely on frozen dinners or opt for another night of cold cereal,” says Troy Mueller, a registered dietitian with Carilion Clinic's Dining and Nutrition Services.  

“But cooking for one doesn't have to be hard," he says. "And with a little insight, ingenuity and planning, it can be cheap, fun and even fairly easy.” 

Kitchen measuring set filled with colorful ingredients.
Troy Mueller, R.D.-N. recommends using culinary math when you want to scale down recipes. "Google can help with this," he says. "For example, just try searching 'how many tablespoons in a cup.'"

Top Tips for Cooking for One
From the supermarket to your fridge, these tips will make it easier to eat healthy on your own:

  • Buy single-serving treats (so you’re not tempted to eat a whole bag of chips by yourself)
  • Use more frozen fruits and veggies to avoid overbuying fresh produce
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with halving (or even quartering) recipes and packages
  • Use a measuring set and kitchen scale for perfect single serving amounts
  • Learn to reinvent leftovers with connected meals  
  • Try freezer cooking to have convenient, healthy dinners on hand on busy nights
  • Use mason jars for pre-portioned, packable breakfasts and lunches
  • Use more delicate produce, like greens and berries, first; save root vegetables and apples for later in the week
  • Keep breakfast and lunch simple to cut down on cleaning time

Troy also recommends investing in a toaster oven, if you don't have one already. "They can make one-serving cooking more sensible, especially during the summer," he says. 

And finally, keep it fun! Turn on your favorite music and enjoy cooking—and the fact that you never have to compromise and make foods you don’t love.

See us safely at CarilionClinic.org/safe.
As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit CarilionClinic.org/safe to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus.