Living by yourself can make healthy eating a challenge. Here are a few tips.
You come home after a long day at work exhausted and hungry. The only greeting you get at the door is from your dog. As your stomach growls, you consider your options: call for take out, grab fast food, warm up a frozen dinner, or actually cook a meal. You know the last idea is the healthiest but definitely not the easiest. However, all those articles have you convinced that eating out may be the reason you’re struggling with your weight, so you put on your apron and get to work.
It doesn’t take much effort to come up with any number of excuses for not cooking for yourself. Maybe you don’t want to take the time to make a nice meal when you’re the only one who’ll enjoy it. Since most recipes make four to six servings, what will you do with all the leftovers? Or perhaps you don’t know how to cook. The good news is these can all be overcome with a little creativity, learning a few fundamental skills, and taking the time to shop for the right ingredients.
Let’s face it: most processed, prepackaged, and fast foods are high in calories, sodium, fat, and sugar. They may be convenient but it’s much easier to maintain control over your health when you cook your own food. If you like the idea of cooking for yourself but need a little motivation, here are a few helpful tips.
Tip 1: Make a Plan
Look at the week ahead and estimate how many nights you’ll be home. Decide which recipes you’d like to try, write down a list of needed ingredients, and head to the grocery store. Only buy what can be eaten in a week or frozen. Having ingredients on hand may keep you from grabbing fast food.
Tip 2: Make Extra
While you can find recipes that make one or two servings, most recipes are designed for families. There’s nothing wrong with this. By preparing larger meals, you don’t have to cook as often. Go ahead and make a casserole, a pot of chili, or a pasta salad. Then divide them into single-serving portions. Eat the leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day or label and date each container and freeze them for later. Most frozen foods keep for several months.
Not too big on leftovers? Adjust the recipe to fit your needs. Reduce a recipe that serves four by three fourths and you’ll have enough for yourself. Or take the meal you made last night and reinvent it. For example, last night’s grilled chicken can be used in a salad, leftover steak can make a great fajita, and the fish waiting in your fridge can turn into a yummy sandwich. A little creativity will save you time and money.
Tip 3: Make It Simple
Meals don’t have to be fancy to be healthy. Find recipes with few ingredients that can be made in less than half an hour and keep the ingredients on hand. If the thought of dirty dishes keeps you from wanting to cook, make a meal that includes several food groups but only uses one dish. This might be a soup, stew, crockpot meal, or casserole.
Tip 4: Make It a Party
Tired of cooking for just one? Eating a meal with friends is more enjoyable than eating alone. Invite a friend, call a neighbor, or ask a coworker to join you. Everyone enjoys a home-cooked meal—especially folks who live on their own.
Organize a potluck where you prepare the main course and each guest brings part of the meal (appetizer, salad, side dishes, and dessert). Find a few friends to join a dinner club and take turns hosting a meal.
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