“I always end up finishing everything in front of me.” - Marilyn Tushar: Age: 23, nanny, Corvallis, Ore.
Credit: Susan Seubert


At the Ohio dinner table where Marilyn formed her eating habits, the food was healthy, and the rules were firm: Finish everything on your plate or you don’t get dessert. “I guess I just really have taken that on,” says Marilyn, who admits that she pretty much hates leftovers in any form and finds it’s tough cooking for one. Marilyn is able to limit her snacks to small servings and also buys portion-controlled packs. But she’s worried about the long-term effects of her eat-it-all mentality.


Instead of turning to restaurants or fast food (and their out-of-control portions) for her dinners for one, Marilyn is trying to cook for herself. It may be a challenge, but it is one of the smartest things she can do for her health. It’s important she find cooking and portion control techniques she can use over and over again, plus a few recipes to ease her through her fear of leftovers.

  • Learn great one-person meals. Fish en papillote, or fish wrapped in parchment paper, is perfect for one. Add your choice of veggies and possibly even some starch for a quick meal, or try a half recipe of our Arctic Char and Vegetables in Parchment Hearts. For a single-serve pasta dish, measure out 2 ounces of dried pasta and toss with sauce, veggies, and cheese. Or go for an omelet stuffed with wilted greens or sautéed mushrooms. If you start off cooking only as much as you’re supposed to eat, you automatically prevent yourself from overeating.
  • Use portion-control tools. At first, measuring portions can be tedious, but as you repeat the same measurements each day (a cup of milk with breakfast, 2 ounces of dried pasta), you’ll be able to better estimate what a true serving is. That way, instead of whipping out measuring cups when you’re at a restaurant, you have a clearer mental picture of a proper portion.
  • Cleverly reuse leftovers. With a little planning, you can make one recipe for tonight’s dinner and have enough leftovers to make a different meal for tomorrow that doesn’t feel like leftovers. Our Chili-Espresso Rubbed Steaks with Warm Tomato Sauce can become Steak Hash with Poached Eggs. And leftover rotisserie chicken is always great for easy one-person meals, like tacos, sandwiches, salads, pita pizzas, and pasta tosses.