How do I cook healthy food for one?
March 1, 2012 5:07 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite low-prep, simple, low-carb, healthy meals for one?

My go-to meal for the last 5 years or so, when I don't eat with other people, has been (large quantity of shell pasta) + (grated colby jack cheese) + (copious salt and fresh ground black pepper). It hits a comfort food sweet spot for me. But it's not healthy for that to be what I eat most of the time, so I need to come up with some alternatives. Some things I know I need for this to hit the mark:

-hot food. Cold food just doesn't make me full as easily.
-softish texture.
-easy. I don't have to think, I just do, and then it tastes like amazing.
-quick. From water boiling on the stove to in my mouth, it takes 15 minutes. Meals that take up to about half an hour are okay, as are crock pot meals. But I don't want to spend 30 minutes on prep at a time.

I like most common vegetables. I suspect broccoli will be a part of this meal, because it is good at making you feel full. Meat and cheese are both on the table, as are beans.
I like spicy, but would prefer recipes which could be delicious not-spicy, as well.
I like my cheese, but don't want to focus on it because of the fat content.
Ideally, this is something that I can eat over and over, whenever the mood strikes.
posted by Night_owl to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 212 users marked this as a favorite
Shakshuka is my go-to lazy-prep comfort food. A touch spicy, warm, and the most complicated thing involved is chopping up and sauteeing a few vegetables.
posted by dorque at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2012 [29 favorites]

some low carb soups and stews that can be frozen and reheated quickly, here. the more simpler eggs in tomato sauce linked in the shakshuka recipe sounds great too.
posted by ilk at 5:14 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heat up some mixed frozen veggies, add some garlic powder and spices, a little olive oil, and toss with low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and Parmesan.
posted by jgirl at 5:14 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

My go-to at the moment is a bowl of miso soup (squeeze miso into bowl, top up with hot water), with tofu cubes in it (chop up firm tofu, fry for about 5-10 minutes), and a poached egg dropped in just before serving. (I poach the egg in the frying pan where I cooked the tofu, just add boiling water and vinegar and crack in the egg). Takes about 15-20 minutes total, mainly waiting time while the tofu and eggs cook. You can add green veges - steamed broccoli or raw sugar snap peas work well.

A less low-carb but more filling and equally comforting alternative is a bowl of rice (I usually make brown) with a poached egg on top. If you leave the yolk runny it soaks into the rice and for some reason I find it similar in texture and comfort-foodiness to melted cheese.
posted by lollusc at 5:18 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Scrambled eggs. Usually I make them with some onion, maybe some leftover veggies or some spinach, grated cheese.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:27 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, I like this fish dish, though in the future I'm probably going to spend a little more on better fish than Tilapia.

Then, I pair it with these lemon green beans:

Lastly, if you need a little starch, they sell small sweet potatoes that come wrapped in cellophane, and to prep them you simply stab them with a fork a few times and microwave for 8 minutes. You can pretty much do it all simultaneously and wind up with a protein, a green, and a starch.

(notes: I'm kind of low-carb, so I omit the white bread from the fish recipe. You won't miss it. As for the potato, the sweet potatoes are apparently better for you than regular. I make that my one starchy food for the whole day, pretty much.)
posted by Doctor Suarez at 5:28 PM on March 1, 2012

Scrambled eggs. I eat 4 for breakfast every morning.

Lately I've taken to eating hard boiled eggs as snacks, fresh cooked and still a bit warm. Yum!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:30 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) Aquire meat or fish
2) Place in the center of a large sheet of tin foil
3) Slather on butter or oil, liberally
4) Add various spices, to taste
5) Wrap the foil around the meat to form a sealed packet
6) Put in the oven at about 450 for about 20 minutes
7) Serve with vegetables, which you can make in the microwave

Also, you might consider getting a crock pot or slow cooker. That way, you can make whatever food you like in advance and set it to be ready to eat when you want it.
posted by decathecting at 5:33 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

soup! I make a big pot of soup in the weekend(takes about an hour total), and then come home, microwave a glass or bowl of it and chill in the couch. I'm currently on a carrot-curry soup kick. If I am still hungry after the soup, I make a grilled cheese sandwich. Or have a dark beer. Sometimes if I am motivated i make a salad, but usually I'm too lazy for salad.

Curry carrot soup basically involved taking 2lb carrots, washing them, chopping the carrots in half, boiling them until tender, adding a tabs of curry powder, some fried onions and the remanents of any other lonely veggie ( celery stick leftovers, peppers, stray potato). I then cook until everything is mushy, and then puree the hell out of it in a blender. I add water or milk or coconut milk when I go to serve it, that way you're not using up a million containers and all your fridge space.
posted by larthegreat at 5:34 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sprouted wheat bread, sauteed mushrooms in soy and a little Worcestershire, spicy mustard, tomato slices. Pair with a red pepper/tomato soup for a full meal or eat alone for breakfast.

My weird spicy cous-cous dish (although I substitute quinoa now for the grain)

Cook cous-cous (or quinoa separate)
mix a few tablespoons of olive oil with half a small bottle of red hot
Saute the following in the sauce until cooked and then add the cous-cous:
-fresh baby spinach
-artichoke hearts
-canned diced tomatoes (with Italian seasoning)
top with feta.

This is awesome because it makes a lot and it's good hot or cold so it travels well for lunches, etc.
posted by Raichle at 5:36 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Omelets hit that sweet spot (as well as having the soft texture you are wanting). You can use pretty much anything, from fresh vegies to leftover chili, as fillers/toppers, cheese is a nice addition, and they pair really well with anything from toast to potatoes to salad. They are also good in both hot and cold weather. I'm not enough of a purist to be sure about omelet/fritata differences; I suspect that what I cook most often is more or less a hybrid of the two.
posted by Forktine at 5:44 PM on March 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas, so quickly! A few things: I do have a crock pot, and I would rather not eat too many egg-based meals as I get tired of them quickly.

Thanks, MoonOrb, for reminding me about frittatas. And dorque, for the Smitten Kitchen link. That sounds delicious!
posted by Night_owl at 5:52 PM on March 1, 2012

If you're down for cooking ahead, I make this lentil chili soup thing and freeze a bunch of portions: 2 onions, 1 head garlic, two peppers, 1 package mushrooms, 1 package of lentils, water, 2 vegetarian boullion cubes. Chop and sautee all the choppable things in a giant pot, throw in the lentils, cook until toothsome. Add cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, hot sauce in there sometime. Freeze in little tupperware containers and you can reheat in like 4 minutes.

I mention this because I'm eating it right now. Lentils have lots of protein, it's great with sprinkled cheese, and for some reason I don't really get sick of it because it can be paired with lots of things if you feel like it, or eaten alone if you don't.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 6:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

1 protein, 2 veggies, 1 skillet. I make this about twice a week. It doesn't get much simpler. My favorite veggies are something green and leafy like kale, chard, collard greens, or spinach and something crunchy like onion or pepper or zucchini or sweet potatoes. For protein, I like ground beef or sausage. But of course the possibilities are endless.
posted by kovacs at 6:12 PM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm also in the lentil soup camp. Or tomato lentil curry soup. Or mushroom soup. And rice crackers and cheese. I eat this pretty much every day. Plus yoghurts and chocolates.
posted by bquarters at 6:23 PM on March 1, 2012

In fact I am procrastinating from making soup now...but if I don't, I'll have nothing to eat tomorrow!
posted by bquarters at 6:24 PM on March 1, 2012

Easy Black Bean Soup (2 modest servings, or one if you're hungry)

1. Drain and rinse one 16-oz can of black beans. Put in a pot. Add enough broth (whatever kind you like) to cover.

2. Then add
  • one medium sized tomato, chopped in quarters
  • one or two garlic cloves, chopped
  • chili powder/flakes to taste
  • salt to taste
2. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on how impatient you are to eat.

3. Stir in 1 tbsp of lemon juice, or to taste.

4. Use hand (immersion) blender to puree. Or use a regular blender (be careful when blending hot liquids--I take it off the heat and let it sit for a minute or two in the pot before putting it in the blender). If it's too thick, add more broth.

5. Top with any or all of the following: shredded cheese, sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped green onions.

You can also, in addition to the tomatoes, use whatever oddments of quick-cooking vegetables you have lying around. Spinach and other greens are good, as are bell peppers and celery; carrots take a long time to cook, so be careful of that. You may want to reduce the amount of broth you put in if you add other veggies, because they'll add their own liquid.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you're willing to allow SOME carbs, there's:

1. pick some kind of leafy green vegetable (spinach, chard, kale, etc.). Saute it with some chopped onion and garlic. Get a good handful.

2. Toss in some canned beans -- maybe half the can.

3. Then toss with some cooked pasta. (You can make this "lower carb" by simply cooking up less pasta.)


Then there's Beef Stroganoff, which I made for one thusly:

1. Start a half cup-sized serving of rice going (half cup of water, quarter cup of rice). Cook according to the package directions. (It's rice. you know what to do.)

2. Chop about a quarter of an onion and about two or three mushrooms. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of paprika over a quarter pound of ground beef.

3. Saute the ground beef in a skillet. When cooked, take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Cook onion and mushroom until onion is just translucent.

3. Turn down the heat to medium-low, add a couple good spoonfuls of sour cream and let simmer just barely for a minute. Stir in the cooked beef and let heat through. Serve over the rice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm making my favorite casserole right now. If you're not very low carb, you won't want to eat it. But it is the MOST DELICIOUS thing on the planet. And it's very filling.

Here's how you make it:

In a skillet, brown a pound of ground beef together with some chopped onion.

Press the browned ground beef and onion into the bottom of a casserole dish.

Then, in a separate bowl, make the topping by combining three eggs, eight ounces of shredded cheese, half a cup of heavy cream, half a cup of mayonnaise, and your choice of spices (I go with sea salt, pepper, and occasionally some garlic). Pour this thick mixture on top of the ground beef.

Voila: you get a very low carb, extremely filling (read: caloric) cheeseburger casserole! It's amazing. Even people who would never ever eat low carb think it's amazing. Unfortunately for them, one taste of it and their waistlines expand...
posted by artemisia at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oops, forgot an important part: bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until golden brown!
posted by artemisia at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2012

Oh, and for a super-fast option for something to go over pasta: chop up a handful of black olives, a spoon of capers, and a couple of anchovy filets. Get some plain jarred pasta sauce, put a couple glugs into a saucepan (enough for over the pasta), and stir in the olives, capers and anchovy. Just let it heat up with the sauce.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2012

Stir fry with almond slivers
If you eat meat m dairy do eggs or quiche is good. Tofu scramble. Ravioli as noodles for lasagna
Butternut squash soup
posted by femmme at 7:08 PM on March 1, 2012

I am struggling with this as well! Tonight's experiment was cooking meat!

I just made this tonight: Perfect chicken breast.

1 minute before I turned the burner off, I violated the "no peeking" rule to plop some fresh broccoli in the pan next to the chicken. The broccoli steams lightly and gets some butter from the pan and the whole thing was DELICIOUS.
posted by MonsieurBon at 7:24 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is my new favorite recipe. Also, I've found Cheap, Healthy, Good is amazing for this stuff. I also recommend the curried chickpeas and black beans.
posted by Attackpanda at 7:34 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My go-to easy dinner is this:

Chunky pasta of some sort + equal measure of veg (chopped spinach, broccoli, peas, whatever makes you happy) tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with parmesan and a runny fried egg (optional). To up the protein without the egg, throw in a handful of chickpeas or canellini beans.

Also good: saute a lot of spinach (it'll wilt down to a quarter of the volume), thinly sliced onions or shallots, and chopped, drained tomatoes in olive oil or butter, with salt and pepper and red pepper and garlic. open and drain a small can of white beans. oil and heat a second skillet and pour the beans in. wait about five minutes for them to get crispy and brown on the bottom, then flip with a spatula and go five minutes longer. serve the beans on the bed of spinach and tomatoes. top with parmesan or feta if you like. A sprinkle of red wine vinegar brings it all together.
posted by elizeh at 8:03 PM on March 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Stuffed peppers are a frequent meal at our house - sautee some ground beef/pork/lamb, season with salt, pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, onion. Add any chopped veggies that need using up, or none. Throw in a handful of instant rice, or not. Stuff washed peppers, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil, and bake wrapped in foil for about 40 min. They take a bit to bake, but only about 15 min to put together. You can make a ton and freeze for future meals.

Steak on salad - not soft textured, but dead easy and takes 10 minutes.

Chicken breasts stuffed with anything - cheese, ham, asparagus - slathered in mustard/mayo and baked 20-30 min. Prep time - less than five minutes. Can be wrapped in bacon when the spirit moves ya.

Burgers on lettuce leaves (if you're wanting low-carb). Cook - slap together with tomatoes, cheese, pickles.

Diced chicken tossed in hot frying pan with sliced garlic, tossed with tzatziki (or yogurt with dill), and sliced cukes. Can be stuffed into a pita.

Salmon cakes or crab cakes - recipes galore, all take just a few minutes to throw together.
posted by tatiana131 at 9:15 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I made kimchi soondubu jjigae the other day, and it was hot, soft, filling, and spicy, all after about 5-10 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking time. It has little or no carbs, and the recipe size is about right for one person with leftovers. I highly recommend adding an egg at the end, too!
posted by vorfeed at 9:25 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Meat Slop! Seriously, even though that name is so very terrible, we have been making it all winter and loving it. It's diced cabbage, vegetables and ground meat, simmered in a thick tomato sauce and spiced however you like. It makes an awesome hearty lunch.

You can prep this in 15 minutes if you have a food processor, and then it cooks for a hour or more. We freeze individual lunch portions up and then microwave it.

Our time saving method is to dice everything in the food processor, and then we throw everything all at one into a pot.

One really good spice combo is nutmeg and cinnamon, making it almost like a bolognese sauce, but way heartier.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 9:58 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you said you weren't into cold foods... but I've been really into Chicken Ceaser salads lately.. very easy and surprisingly filling. Grill up a few chicken breasts ahead of time and then just romaine, dressing and Parmesan cheese. If you really want something warm, just heat up the chicken before putting it on the salad. Might be a nice option to switch to once in a while. As a recovering carb addict, I find it very satisfying.
posted by j03 at 10:38 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something I've found out in the last couple of months is that frozen fish microwaves really, really well. Since then I've been having a lot of meals that are just salmon fillet + vegetables or salad + fun stuff (boiled egg, anchovies, coconut cream, herbs, chilli sauce, sesame seeds + sesame oil, flavoured vinegar) It takes about 5 minutes and can be very tasty indeed and surprisingly cheap.
posted by Acheman at 2:07 AM on March 2, 2012

Best answer: Lately I have been nuts for green beans, which will hold up to just about any pasta sauce. Lately I've just been making almondine. It goes with all proteins, too.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a booth at our farmer's market that has been serving a bowl with some saute'd veggies, a half-cup of cooked lentils, and a poached egg on top.
Lentils freeze easily, so when we make this at home we freeze it in small batches so that a bowl of this is easy to whip up. If you're backing off on the eggs you could substitute with some tofu, cheese, or meat.

BTW, Haloumi is a cheese from Cypress that doesn't melt on heating, so works well as a topping on lots of things when it's grilled.
posted by Runes at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2012

I use those frozen Bird's Eye Steamfresh veggie bags all the time. Throw one in the microwave, 5 mins on high and you have a great, warm, healthy base for any meal. My go-to is a corn/carrot/pea mix.

I love Asian flavors, so I typically top them with a salmon burger (frozen, from Costco, grills up on the stove in 9 mins, delicious), a little soy sauce, a little sesame oil and a healthy serving of sriracha.

All in, its about 10 mins worth of work.
posted by EarnestSchemingway at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

For a variation on the shakshuka that dorque mentions, I've been loving this version lately. Made with swiss chard stems! They really do add an interesting and delicious flavor.
posted by aka burlap at 6:36 PM on March 3, 2012

Best answer: My first thought was that you could try adding broccoli, kale, or spinach to replace 1/3-1/2 of the pasta in your existing pasta cheese dish. If kale or broccoli, you'd probably want to steam or sauté it lightly first. The broc takes longer to cook than kale. Maybe you could steam broccoli over the pasta as it cooks, for easy cooking and cleanup?
The spinach you could just toss with the hot pasta and it would wilt. Also easy and no extra dishes.

For cheesy flavor without as much cheese, try a spoonful of nutritional yeast. Just put it on and taste the dish before you salt it, as it's salty too.
posted by librarina at 3:58 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I forgot eggs and greens. There are two ways to do this:

1. Eggs florentine: Preheat your oven to about 350. Cook up some spinach until it's wilted down (half a 10-ounce bag should do it) or thaw out a thing of frozen spinach. Butter up a small shallow oven-safe dish, spread the spinach in the bottom, and then make a little dent in the middle (or two dents). Break an egg into the dent (or one each into the two dents), and sprinkle some parmaesan cheese and bread crumbs on top. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes until the egg is set.

2. Last night I poached two eggs and had them on top of a plate of salad greens. Total time: 10 minutes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on March 6, 2012

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