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Vegetarian Cooking for One

By Amie Lesyk

Because a vegetarian diet should consist of lots of fresh veggies, cooking for one may often have you scrambling to use produce before it goes bad or feeling a lack of motivation or time to prepare a large meal. There are simple solutions when cooking veggie meals for yourself that will have you eating yummy dishes daily, without the work of cooking big meals every day or wasting unused vegetables.

Vegetarian 101

Everybody has different tastes when it comes to meals, and vegetarians are no exception. Vegetarian cooking can be for all different tastes, from high-protein bean-based meals to classics like pasta with sauce. You want to make sure you eat a balanced meal full of protein, vitamins and nutrients. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eggs, beans, nuts, nut butters, peas and soy products such as tofu to fulfill the protein part of your diet. For veggies, the old adage which says the more color the better still rings true.

Cooking Versus Take Out

Eating on the go can often lead to unhealthy meal choices. Often cheap and easy food is loaded with carbohydrates or fat. For vegetarians, to-go options can be even more limited. The best way to ensure eating a healthy, vegetarian meal during your work days, or anytime, is to cook your own meals. But this does not have to be as time-consuming as you might think.

The Schedule

When cooking for one your best bet is to set a schedule. Plan what kind of meals you want to eat that week—maybe three to four dishes—and buy the appropriate groceries. Pick one or two days of the week when you have time to do meal prep and take that time to cook those well-rounded veggie meals. Chances are if you cook a whole veggie lasagna, you're not going to eat it all in one sitting. Freeze some of the portions and enjoy it again on a different day of the week.

Freeze portions of the other dishes you cook; this way you won't have to sacrifice quality if you don't have time to cook a full, healthy meal; just grab a dish out of the freezer and heat it up. This also allows you to use up produce before it goes bad, which can be a challenge when cooking for one. Examples of meals that can be frozen are pasta, soup, stir-fries, vegetarian burgers and vegetarian chili.

Mayo Clinic`s on-line article "Healthy meals: Cooking for 1 or 2" lists helpful tips such as buying frozen foods in bulk and cooking "one-dish meals" that contain foods from several food groups.

Fresh Foods

Of course you don`t always want to be eating out of the freezer. Salads are the perfect way to infuse some easy, fresh nutrients into your meal. Pre-rinsed and bagged lettuces often hold up well in the refrigerator—good for the solo eater—and only need a few veggies likes onions, tomatoes or mushrooms to be spruced up.

Grocery Shopping

Apart from the items you buy for your planned meals, buy small portions of inexpensive veggies to keep on hand. It`s always good to have a few staple veggies that can easily be tossed with salads, grilled for stir-fry or mixed into an omelet. Inexpensive fruit, such as bananas and apples, as well as nuts and trail mix, can also be kept handy, When shopping for one, the most economical action is to buy items that will last a bit longer rather than items that ripen quickly.

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