Tips for Cooking healthy meals for one

Health & Wellness
resident cooking

Posted: February 9, 2022

Moving into a retirement community to enjoy your golden years can be very exciting. From making new friends to a robust social calendar, concierge services, to low maintenance living that will make all your friends and family envious. But there are some adjustments you may go through as well. If you are used to cooking up a storm each night for loved ones, this is one area that may have a bit of a learning curve. There are several things you can do to help you learn to cook nutritious meals for one.

Tips for cooking for one

First, make a plan. Each week create a menu and prepare a grocery list. Don’t be afraid of leftovers. Leftovers can be eaten at lunch the next day, or they can be used to create a delicious and nutritious new meal. Have left over chicken from dinner the night before? Add that chicken into a nice salad for lunch to change things up a bit. Planning not only helps reduce food waste, but it saves money and time as well. Each of Bella Vita’s beautiful independent living apartments has its own kitchen equipped with everything you will need to cook up a nutritious meal for one such as a full refrigerator with freezer, stove top and oven.

Another way to make healthy favorites for one is to learn to half the recipes you already enjoy. Most recipes can easily be cut down into half or thirds. Did you know many foods also freeze well?

Dishes such as soups or chili can easily be frozen and enjoyed another day. Just portion the food into single serving sized freezer containers and place them in the freezer. When you are ready to enjoy, place the container in the refrigerator to thaw for 24-48 hours. Depending on the type of food, it can be kept in the freezer anywhere from one to six months. The governments food safety website has a chart that tells you which foods are freezer friendly and how long they can be kept. Pro tip, bread can also be frozen and pulled out the night before to thaw on the counter for breakfast the next day.

What is it really like living in a 55+ retirement community?

What you eat is important too

A balanced, nutritious diet is important, no matter your age. Proper nutrition provides the fuel that our bodies need to operate efficiently, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes. Making sure to eat nutritiously is just the start to maintaining your health long into your golden years, exercise is also a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity helps keep seniors mentally and physical healthy which allows them to stay independent longer. Bella Vita’s well-equipped fitness center is conveniently open 24 hours a day so you can get a workout in no matter the weather or time of day.

As we age, what our bodies need changes and so do our nutritional needs. Some people need fewer calories, some may need more protein and sometimes with age we may develop sensitivities to foods we used to love.

Adults 70 or older need more calcium and vitamin D in their diets to help them maintain bone health. Great sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals or fruit juices. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, eggs and a variety of fortified beverages and foods. The older we get and because of medications we may take, our body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 may decrease. Adding more protein and eating fortified foods can help meet our needs for this important vitamin.

Tips for adding nutritional value into mealtime 

For people over the age of 60 the Department of Agriculture recommends a few simple tricks to add more variety and nutrition into mealtime such as:

  • Adding seafood or dairy with beans and lentils to your dish to help maintain muscle mass
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables throughout the day and adding them into your favorite dishes. Using frozen or canned vegetables to your meals are a great alternative if chopping or slicing are a challenge.

Don’t forget to hydrate

Older adults are especially at risk for dehydration, and it can happen a lot quicker than you think. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. As we age, our body’s ‘thirst signal’ decreases and we may not realize we are thirsty like we used to.

Our body’s water percentage also decreases as we age, and those who live in higher altitudes are more susceptible to dehydration since there is less oxygen in the air. One way to help remind us to hydrate is to set reminders on our phone or by using a timer. Carrying a water bottle with marks to indicate how much we should drink by a certain time a day is also a helpful trick. The dangers of dehydration can be life-threatening and lead to seizures and even potentially death. So don’t forget to hydrate!

How do you know if you are dehydrated?

There are several symptoms to look out for that can indicate dehydration such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headaches or dizziness

Another great way to make sure you keep hydrated is to consider hydrating though your diet. There are many fruits and vegetables available that have a high-water content. Consider snacking on watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, cucumbers, zucchini, celery or even a delicious tomato. Even yogurt can help in keeping hydrated. A little creativity and planning will keep your body running at its best for you to enjoy your active lifestyle.

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