Earlier this week, a post on the Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” blog caught my attention. Author Anjali Athavaley asked, “Is cooking for one a waste of time and money?”
It’s a great question. Personally, even though I have a husband and a child, I often find myself eating alone, particularly at lunch. And as much as I love not cooking–even if it’s just grabbing something from Whole Foods’ salad bar–I inevitably eat healthier when I make it myself.
Not cooking is supposed to save time–but honestly, it’s usually faster to skip the restaurant or deli and stay in. Deborah Madison, author of What We Eat When We Eat Alone, agrees. “We tend to move so fast that we assume there isn’t time to make a meal for only ourselves,” says Madison. “But the truth is, you can throw together a beautiful meal quickly and easily—it is just for one, after all.”
With that in mind, here are seven fast, delicious and healthy options that are perfect for one person:
1. A cup of hummus with chopped vegetables. “This meal, which takes all of three minutes to pull together, is great for lunch or a large snack,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “And it contains protein, carbohydrates and a little fat—the nutrient combo that keeps you feeling fuller, longer.”
2. Sweet potatoes. “Many women that I interviewed for my book said that sweet potatoes are a mainstay of their solo meals,” says Madison. That’s because these low-cal but nutrient-dense tubers can be cooked in the microwave in under five minutes, and can be served whole, mashed, sweet (with a little cinnamon or brown sugar) or savory (topped with chopped chicken or caramelized onions).
3. Oatmeal topped with nuts or dried fruit. “Don’t assume oatmeal is just for breakfast. It makes a filling, delicious lunch or dinner, too,” says Moore, who recommends adding a dollop of yogurt to your oats for an added protein punch.
4. Sandwich wraps. “Fill a whole grain wrap with sliced turkey, a little cheese and some tomato and lettuce and voila—you’ve got a meal in under two minutes,” says Moore.
5. A salad with dried fruit (like cherries or raisins), nuts and some extra vegetables (think cucumbers, celery and carrots). “Use pre-washed salad greens and bagged fruit and nuts to cut down on prep time,” advises Moore.
6. Eggs. “Breakfast for dinner is brilliant,” says Madison. An omelet with toast or salad makes a warm, tasty meal that can be whipped up in less than 15 minutes.
7. Leftovers. “Yesterday’s lunch or dinner can be a great resource for single serving meals,” says Madison. Don’t have quite enough to fill your plate? Most leftovers—from stir-fry to rotisserie chicken to chili—can be scrambled up with some egg whites, frozen stir-fry veggies or rice to make a proper meal.