The reality is most recipes simply aren’t designed for one. Many times, it might seem easier to grab a pre-packaged frozen dinner or order takeout than make a meal for yourself. Cooking is a better option, however, when it comes to preparing healthy meals for seniors.
Taking the time to cook healthy meals also gives you more control over what you eat. This is key because good nutrition can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, anemia, and bone loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you’ve already developed any of these conditions, your diet can help you mitigate your symptoms — but make sure you check with your doctor before you embark on a major change in your eating habits, as your doctor may have you on a diet designed to lower blood pressure or manage blood sugar. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine determines a recommended daily intake that can be followed if your doctor has not put you on a specific diet.
Quick and easy options for satisfying, nutritious dinners for one include:
- Fresh Vegetable Soup: On a cold night, nothing hits the spot better than chili or soup. An easy and healthy vegetable soup recipe calls for sweating a small diced onion, a carrot, and two stalks of celery in a saucepan coated with a splash of olive oil. Add a package of frozen mixed vegetables and a quart of low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a slow simmer to allow flavors to meld, then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cobb Salad: Healthy and filling, a Cobb salad is an elegant combination of chopped lettuce, grilled or baked chicken, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. For variety, add a diced avocado or top the salad with a small amount of your favorite dressing.
- Southwestern Omelets: Eggs aren’t just for breakfast. As long as your doctor doesn’t limit your intake, eggs can be made into a protein-packed meal at any time of day. To make this Southwestern version, beat two eggs with a fork and pour them into a non-stick skillet. Add pepper jack cheese and salsa for a basic omelet; for more pizzazz add sausage, chili powder, and even slices of avocado. Cook on gentle heat until the eggs are firm and fold them over to form the omelet.
- Shrimp and Pasta: You can make a delicious shrimp pasta in minutes using either frozen or fresh shrimp. Cook pasta (angel hair or linguine work well in this recipe) according to the package instructions. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a medium saucepan and add minced garlic and shredded basil (you can subsitute fresh basil for dried). Add shrimp to the sauce and cook until the shrimp are pink. Toss with the pasta and top with chopped tomatoes.
Cooking for yourself has many advantages — and you may like it so much that you join a cooking class to expand your culinary skills. Making healthy meals for seniors is important in order to maintain health and independence. Bon appetit!