Kate

Healthy eating for one or two

by Kate Kinne | Jun 02, 2022

Many of my clients find themselves shying away from cooking because it can be a lot of work to make a meal for just one or two people.  Groceries are wasted and leftovers lose their appeal after a few meals of the same thing.  However, there are some easy ways to make quick and healthy meals for a single or couple and actually save yourself time in the kitchen and money in the wallet. 

First of all, if you are someone who has said “I don’t like leftovers,” or “I can’t freeze food because it will just get lost in the freezer,” I’m going to challenge you to change those thoughts.  When preparing meals for yourself, your freezer is your best ally.  It allows you to batch cook and save yourself some time in the long run.  Keep in mind you can freeze almost anything, like fresh fruits and veggies that may otherwise spoil, bread, obviously uncooked meat but also protein sources that already cooked (like grilled chicken or browned ground turkey).  So don’t be afraid to cook something just because you can’t eat it all at once.  Instead, cook it, use what you need, and freeze the rest.  Taco meat today can be teriyaki turkey stir fry next time.

To get started, if your freezer is a mess, clean it out.  Get it organized and make sure you have freezer-friendly storage containers.  Keep a list near your freezer so you can keep inventory of what is in there, and date the items you store.  I’m not implying that you are going to store food in there to eat in three months, but perhaps in three weeks.  As you meal plan for your week, you can pull from your stash.  Think of it as making your own frozen dinners. 

Meal plan, I say?  Indeed.  Make a plan for the week and consider the foods you have in your fridge and freezer.  Make a shopping list, and include some convenience items to help the cooking process along, like microwave grain packs or frozen brown rice, canned beans, frozen veggies and dried fruits.  When meal planning, come up with a few meal ideas for the week, not EVERY meal.  Reuse ingredients when you can, for example if you have a rice stir fry one night, make extra rice for a casserole the next day.  Or grill some veggie burgers one night, and make some extra to throw in wraps later in the week. 

There are plenty of recipes that can be adapted too, so instead of four servings just cut the recipe in half and make two.  Below are some recipes I shared in a virtual presentation on this topic last week for National Senior Health and Fitness Day.  A couple are scalable, and one let’s you try out the freezer meal option.  I hope you will give them a try! 

Baked Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables: This recipe allows you to cook individual pieces of fish with some vegetables, and then throw the foil away and dishes are done!  Make as many or as few as you need.  The recipe calls for salmon, asparagus, grape tomatoes and zucchini, but you can use whatever fish and veggies that you like.  I use asparagus for myself, but green beans for my kids.  Bake the foil packets in the oven, or throw them on the grill.  For a bit more flavor without the added salt, I added a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash before baking. 

Beans and Rice with Red Chili Sauce: This recipe as provided makes a since serving filled with fiber and protein, but low in saturated fat and sodium.  It also creates a balanced plate of protein, whole grains and veggies all in one meal!  No sides required.  If you have high blood pressure, I’d use the recipe as is and use no-salt-added tomato sauce, and if you like some kick, add some ground cayenne pepper.  If sodium isn’t as much of a concern for you and your other meals are not sodium-heavy, I’d go ahead and use regular tomato sauce.  I used black beans instead of pinto, just because that’s what I had on hand, and I added some minced garlic at the end of sauteing the onions.  I also added the canned beans to the pan after the onion and sauce were done cooking, so the beans could warm that way.  I double this recipe for leftovers the next day.  This recipe was created by Chicago RD Dawn Jackson Blatner for her book, The Flexitarian Diet.  It has several great, healthy meals for one included!
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup no salt added tomato sauce
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed drained and heated
3/4 cup cooked brown rice (precooked microwavable or you can simmer your own)
1/2 small green bell pepper, diced
In a medium pan, saute onion in olive oil for 3 minutes until tender.  Add in tomato sauce and chili powder, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Serve sauce on top of hot beans, cooked rice, and diced green pepper.  (Edited to add: I sauted the green pepper with the onion, added garlic after 3 min, added tomato sauce, chili powder and beans, cooking to warm through the 5 minutes.)

Egg Sandwiches: This recipe allows you to have leftovers to make egg sandwiches for the freezer for an easy meal in the future.  You can vary the veggies each time you make it, consider peppers and onions one time to eat with salsa and avocado, or olives, feta and sun-dried tomatoes for a Greek version. 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Saute chopped onion for about 3-4 minutes, then add a few handfuls of chopped baby spinach and saute just until wilted.  Add canned mushrooms  (fresh would be great too, just add them sooner).  Whisk 10 eggs, ¼ cup of milk, ½ tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Put veggies in a greased 9x13 pan and pour the eggs over top.  Top with some cheese if you’d like (about 1 cup), I prefer to add a slice of cheese to the sandwich later.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Use a knife to cut the eggs into portions, serve on a whole grain English muffin with any other toppings you’d like.  I add a slice of cheese here and freeze the sandwiches individually.  To reheat from frozen, cook at 50% for one minute, flip sandwich and cook at full power for one minute. 

Heathy Regards,
kate

 

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