Senior woman shopping for whole grain products
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Shop Smart

Shop smart when you're cooking for one.

  • Shop with a friend; split perishables into individual amounts.
  • Divide large cuts of meats and freeze into single-size portions.
  • Buy fresh and frozen produce. It's easier to use in smaller portions than canned fruits and veggies.
  • Stock up on staples like dried pasta, beans, and rice.
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Lasagna being served from large pan
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Cook More, Not Less

Healthy cooking for one doesn't have to mean paring down great recipes. If you like buying in bulk and the convenience of having meals on hand, cooking more makes sense. Make a crock of chili, a pan of lasagna, or a pot of soup. Eat one portion and freeze the rest.

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Overhead view of woman chopping many vegetables
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Cut Prep and Cleanup Time

One-pan meals like lasagna or a casserole make cleanup easy. But you can slash prep time, too. Chopping veggies or meat for tonight's dinner? Chop twice the amount and then use the rest tomorrow. Buy precut produce for hectic days. Or try cooking with a friend. Swap half your chili for half her meatloaf.

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Woman making list before going grocery shopping
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Plan Balanced Meals

When you're planning to make balanced, healthy meals:

  • Make at least half of your grains whole (brown rice, oatmeal).
  • Eat lean meats and other proteins (beans and peas, fish).
  • Get lots of fruits and vegetables.
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Colorful assortment of exotic spices on plate
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Use More Spice, Less Salt

Most of us get more sodium than we need. Instead of salt, punch up the flavor of your kitchen creations with fresh lemon and lime juice, a pinch of herbs and spices -- like dill, chives, rosemary, sage, ginger, and dry mustard -- or splashes of flavored vinegars and oils.

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Senior woman preparing dinner with friends
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Reduce the Recipe

Not in the mood for leftovers? Cut the recipe in half. Read a recipe before you pare it down because some ingredients -- like one egg -- are hard to divide. When you reduce a recipe, you may have to change the size of the pan and alter the cooking time. Or skip the hassle by inviting friends for dinner and sending them home with leftovers.

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Leftovers stored in airtight containers in fridge
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Store Food Safely

Keep leftovers safe and nutritious by dividing them into shallow containers while still hot, then putting them in the fridge to cool. Leave room because cold air needs to circulate to keep food safe. Avoid storing leftovers in old containers. Traces of foods like margarine, yogurt, or cheese can still linger, leading to cross-contamination.

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Meat thermometer sticking out of chicken breast
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Reheat Right

When reheating leftovers, stay safe by warming food to 165° Fahrenheit. Check the food in several places with a meat thermometer. For meat, be sure you check the temperature in the thickest part. A microwave can leave cold spots where bacteria can survive. So stir and rotate food a few times during reheating.

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Man referring to cookbook while preparing dinner
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Experiment and Have Fun

Don't get stuck in a rut. Try something new to spice up your menu.

  • Buy new cookbooks and clip recipes from magazines.
  • Buy new-to-you produce, sauces, or condiments.
  • Try breakfast for dinner, an ethnic cuisine, or grow your own fresh herbs or veggies.
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Group of seniors sharing a meal together at home
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Dine With Friends

You don't have to cook and eat alone all the time. Have family, friends, or neighbors over once a week. Attend brown-bag seminars, throw potluck suppers, or head to the cafeteria at work. Join a supper club, attend church luncheons, eat out occasionally, or volunteer at Meals On Wheels or the local soup kitchen.

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Table set for one with china, candle and flowers
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Relish Your Meal

When you are home alone for dinner, make it a treat. Set your table in a cozy nook, or out in the garden. Put on music you love. Bring out the good dishes and fresh flowers. Relax, savor your food -- and admire your ability to cook a good, healthy meal for one.  

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/12/2017 Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 12, 2017


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(11)  Johner Imgeas



American Dietetic Association.
Baylor College of Medicine.
Department of Health, Vermont.
Montana State University Extension Service.
Pennsylvania Senior Centers.
Stanley, K. Quick and Easy Diabetic Recipes for One: Tips and Recipes for Healthy Eating On Your Own, American Diabetes Association, 1997.
University of Minnesota Extension.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 12, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.