Serve your plate, then immediately put away leftovers before sitting down to eat to eliminate the urge to go back for more.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

The tricks and tips you need to be successful when you're cooking for one. 

Arielle Weg
June 21, 2017

We're just going to say it: Trying to lose weight on your own is hard. You're constantly battling with fresh veggies going bad because you can't eat them fast enough, or you have too many leftovers from a recipe that serves 8. The list of struggles goes on and on. We applaud you for making a decision to live healthier, though, and we want to help you avoid hitting those roadblocks along the way by helping you diet for one!

Here are our favorite tips for living the healthiest life while single.

REPURPOSE INGREDIENTS
Miso Tofu on Monday, Avocado Toast Tuesday, and Lentil Salad on Wednesday sounds great in theory, but when you're just one person you have to plan meals that use up the ingredients you have before they go bad.

When planning your weekly meals, choose recipes with ingredients you need for other days of the week or leftover ingredients from the week before. If you bought feta cheese for lunchtime Greek Salad, you can prepare recipes (or search for recipes) that use feta in other ways, like Zucchini, Walnut, and Feta Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce. And then you can use the extra zucchini and cucumber in a different salad, and so on. Point being: When you're buying an ingredient, consider what other recipe you can utilize it in so you're using it up and keeping your wallet happy.

DIVERSIFY YOUR MEALS
As you're reusing ingredients, make sure you're also diversifying your meals. Avoid accidentally planning a Greek salad wrap with hummus for lunch, veggies and hummus for snacks, and then Chickpea Curry for dinner. You'll quickly tire yourself out eating something so similar all day.

When planning your week, consider repurposing ingredients in different ways and sprinkling them throughout the week. If you know you have a ton of avocados, make Avocado-Egg Salad for lunch Monday, smashed avocado toast for breakfast Wednesday, and guacamole and chips for a snack Thursday. This way you can use up the ingredients you have without burning yourself out on them. 

SHOP SMART

Photo: Dan Dalton/Getty Images


At this point you know fresh ingredients go bad quickly, and meal planning can help remedy this. Try to buy just enough ingredients to get you through one week, so you're not constantly tossing wilted lettuce or mushy berries.

Sometimes it's helpful to take shorter trips to the grocery store more often. As much as once a week shopping would be ideal, it may be easier to only buy enough for a few days at a time. This can help reduce your food waste, and allow you to enjoy fresher ingredients more consistently. 

CONSIDER CANNED AND FROZEN

Photo: Randy Mayor


Nobody ever wants to live out of the pantry and freezer, but sometimes fresh produce or protein isn't an option. Stock your pantry with ingredients like whole grains, canned beans, and shelf-stable nut butters, and fill your freezer with fruit, vegetables, and individual servings of frozen lean proteins. 

These ingredients will help keep you on track even if you can't make it to the store. Plus, you'll always have fresh produce and protein on hand to whip up something healthy in a pinch, and you won't have to run to the store every time you come across a new recipe.

ENJOY LEFTOVERS
Most dinner meals are made for a full family, but cutting down carefully crafted recipes to make one serving instead of four can be a bit tricky. Cooking for one is a great opportunity to eat more, though, and cook less. 

Choose to prepare foods that can last in the fridge for a few days, like Chickpea and Pesto Pasta Salad, instead of something that will go bad overnight, like banana-based foods. You can easily repurpose your meal for lunch the next day or enjoy it again for dinner without the hassle of preparing something from scratch after work. 

If leftovers all week isn't your thing, prepare meals that are freezer-friendly, like Loaded Mashed Potato Soup or Spicy Thai Red Curry Beef. Place leftovers in individual containers and pop them in the freezer to reheat next week.

PREP YOUR GRAINS

Photo: Iain Bagwell


Brown rice, quinoa, faro, and other grains can be time-consuming to make on a busy weeknight. When you're just cooking for one, try spending one evening or weekend afternoon prepping all the grains you'll need for the week and keep them in the fridge. It's one less thing you'll have to think about when making dinner, and you can portion out just enough for yourself all week long.

MEAL PLAN
Meal planning is essential to eating healthy, especially if you're trying to shed pounds. By planning out your meals, you can stick to a specific calorie goal, ensure you have healthy snacks on hand at all times, and take the guessing game out of figuring out what you'll eat.

Making a plan for the week can help keep you on track and provide confidence to prepare healthy food instead of going the dine out route. The Cooking Light Diet is a fantastic tool to help plan ahead of time and stick to meals within a certain calorie goal that also meet your specific needs.

These are just some of the many tips we've gathered about cooking for one from the Cooking Light Diet Facebook community. If you'd like to learn more about the Cooking Light Diet, or the recipes included in this guide, write to us at feedback@cookinglightdiet.com, or visit CookingLightDiet.com.

Limited-Time Summer Flash Sale!  Take advantage of this Cooking Light Diet special offer. New members can use promo code FLASHSALE for 25% off their initial subscription. Offer valid 6/15/17-6/30/17. New subscriptions only.