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How To Cook Healthy Meals for One

Updated on November 3, 2012
quinoa with veggies and chicken
quinoa with veggies and chicken | Source

When I was living on my own, my meals left a lot to be desired. My husband, in contrast, cooked himself lovely dinners during his single years. His stories impressed me and got me wondering why our experiences were so different. The answer is In two words - attitude and skill.

Food for Thought

How much do you enjoy cooking for yourself?

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Cooking for one can seem like too much trouble. But it's all in how you look at it.

Imagine if you were having someone you really like over for a meal. You would want to make your guest feel comfortable with a clean, attractive atmosphere. You'd want to have something nice to serve them, so that they would enjoy the food.

Now realize that you are worth that same effort.

It takes a plan and practice, maybe some new habits. But there's no time like the present to make a commitment to yourself. And the benefits will continue through the next stages of your life.


Prepared foods like rotisserie chicken can be a great option. But relying on them adds salt and fat to your diet. If you can devote a little time to meal planning and preparation, creating homemade meals is easier than you may think.

Cookbooks are a great source for ideas and techniques.
Cookbooks are a great source for ideas and techniques. | Source

1. Meal Planning

Having a weekly menu is key. Knowing what you'll be preparing ahead of time takes away the stress of having to decide each day. Grocery trips will be more productive and focused, so your spending will stay on track. And you'll know what needs to be prepared ahead of time.

Start by making a list of dishes you already know how to make. Ask family members for old favorites you remember enjoying. Browse through cookbooks or recipe websites for more ideas.

Jot down the ingredients for recipes you like. This will become your shopping list.

Appetizers can add up to a satisfying meal.
Appetizers can add up to a satisfying meal. | Source

2. Shopping

Any efficient kitchen needs staples - items that you'll use every day, in all kinds of ways.

Herbs and spices are essential as well. Get the basics first:


Pepper (red and black)



Chili powder


Garlic powder


Then add in new ones as you discover them.

Have on hand:

Olive and Canola oil

Cans or packets of low-sodium broth(chicken, vegetable or beef)

Grains like rice and quinoa

Pasta, regular or whole wheat (even tomato or spinach!)

Canned tomatoes

Low-sodium tomato sauce

Balsamic and white wine vinegar

Cans of beans (cannelliini, black, kidney)

Tip: If all this is too much to buy at once, just get a few things each shopping trip. Once you have your stock items ready, healthy and delicious meals will be that much easier and quicker to make.

Fresh ingredients make for more delicious meals
Fresh ingredients make for more delicious meals | Source

Ideas for More Effective Shopping

Design your week of meals around an ingredient that's on sale. For example, use chicken breasts in both parmesan and lemon chicken one week. Or use pesto on it's own with pasta or as a topping for broiled fish.

Large packages of meat tend to be cheaper by the pound. When you get home, separate the meat into individual portions and wrap each one up in plastic, or place it in a container. They'll take up less room in your freezer that way, and you can pull out just the right amount when you need it.

Pasta, grains and even cereals can be put into resealable containers or bags. They will stay fresh longer than in an open box.

Take time to cut up veggies on the weekend . Carrots, celery, green peppers, or whatever you like. Keep them in small plastic bags. You can use them for dinners that week, as well as grab some for your lunch.

Spanish black beans and rice packs a protein punch.
Spanish black beans and rice packs a protein punch. | Source

3. Preparing

Homemade meals don't have to be fancy. Aim for getting a good balance of foods on your plate, and then get creative in how you put them together. Try this:

Focus especially on vegetables - two or more in a variety of colors. How about steaming some broccoli, carrots and yellow squash (about 1/2 cup of each)?

Cook 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water. After taking your serving (a baseball size scoop), put the rest in a container and you have rice for later that week.

Decide on a meat or fish you'd like and bake some up. Chicken with a light sweet and sour sauce, steak rubbed with garlic, shrimp spritzed with lemon and black pepper - wherever your taste buds take you.

There - a simple, delicious dinner just for you. And you're a cook!


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    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Healthy for the body, mind and wallet!

    • chefmancave profile image

      Robert Loescher 4 years ago from Michigan

      Funny story about Greek Lemon Chicken. The CEO of my company is Greek and I invited him and few others over for dinner. I made the Greek Lemon chicken. He liked it so much he was in the kitchen lapping up the last of the juices with a piece of bread. At my next employee review, I got a big raise. Did I tell that cooking is healthy?

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey chefmancave! It's great that you decided to do better for yourself. It can be enough of a challenge when you're home, never mind on the road. I bet your lemon chicken is delicious!!

    • chefmancave profile image

      Robert Loescher 4 years ago from Michigan

      When I first started out my career, I travelled a lot. I ate at airports, bad restaurants and from hotel vending machines. Even when I returned home my eating habits were not much better. I think I kept half of the fast food restaurants afloat in the mid 90's. :-) Now, I cook for myself. For me, cooking is a stress reliever. I have fun in the kitchen making awesome recipes and learning new techniques. Do I make mistakes? Hell Yes! But can I cook Greek Lemon Chicken with roasted potatoes? Hell Yes!

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for your encouraging words and the vote! I agree, it's fun to gain confidence in cooking. It took me a while, but now I actually enjoy experimenting with different flavors!

    • profile image

      bri36 5 years ago

      Besides eating better it gives you more confidence to try different things and that in turn leads to experimenting with more kinds of foods. This is a great hub and I really like the spices to stock up on. keep up the good work Heather63 and welcome to Hubpages. Yes I voted^

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Believe me, I know that feeling. I used to go for the easiest meal I could pull together - like pasta with melted American cheese! And you're right - I wish I had learned earlier how much eating well can help me enjoy my time. Thanks for your comments, and good luck with your good changes!

    • KimmiS profile image

      KimmiS 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      These are great tips. I know when I'm by myself, even if it's just for a few days I start to feel depressed when I don't' eat any proper meals. Even something simple like rice and steamed veggie will lift my spirits! It's just convincing myself to make it ;)