Ideas for Healthy Dinners for One or Two People

Salmon fillets served with mushy peas and steamed vegetables on plate and new potatoes and steamed vegetables
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Planning and cooking small meals might not feel like it's worth your time, especially since recipes are typically designed for four to six people. Isn't it just easier to go out to eat or pick up something on the way home?

Okay, I'll admit that's probably true -- it is simpler to buy dinner than it is to make it, but there's something special about a home cooked meal. So here are some tips and tricks for cooking meals for just one or two people.

First, Plan Your Meals

Take an hour or so to make up a meal plan for a few days or a week. Make a shopping list based on the ingredients you'll need - it helps to choose two or more meals that use some of the same fresh ingredients so you don't end up wasting them. Or in some cases, you can freeze leftover ingredients for another week.

Try out some recipes specially designed for one or two people. You can also look for larger recipes and cut them down by half or make two or three meals at one time and freeze the leftovers for healthier frozen dinners later. Look for recipes that call for ingredients that are low in calories, sugar, and saturated fat, but rich in nutrients like dishes that feature lots of colorful vegetables.​

Shopping for One or Two

There are also a few things to think about when you're grocery shopping. Some foods can be purchased in bulk because they store well for a long time.

You can keep dry beans, pasta, flour, and other dry goods in covered containers and use as much as you'd like whenever you want them.

Stock up on canned goods, too, but first, think about the amounts you'll consume after the containers are opened. A large family-sized can of soup might seem like a great bargain, but not if you end up throwing half of it away.

 Stay with smaller single and double serving sizes of canned goods. 

Grocery shopping is always easier when you have a shopping list. This way you'll buy the foods you need, and you'll be less tempted to fill your cart with highly processed meals.

What About the Leftovers?

Some of your favorite recipes might be difficult to scale down to size, but you can save the leftovers for another meal. You might bake a whole chicken for dinner one night and use the leftover meat to make a stir-fry or stew. Or you could use some of the chicken on a sandwich to take to work or school the next day.

Be sure to practice food safety when you store leftovers. They should be kept in the right size containers, usually sealed, and put in the refrigerator or freezer within one hour after serving. Frozen foods can last for several months, but refrigerated cooked foods will keep for less than a week, so you'll want to make good use of them quickly.

When it's time for eat your leftovers, be sure to reheat them thoroughly before serving, to avoid cold spots in your food.

Frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator or the microwave (in microwave-safe dishes only) and not left to thaw at room temperature.

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