There are many life events that may result in having to cook for fewer people than you are used to. If you do not adjust your recipes you could end up eating leftovers three or four times in a row. Others might find themselves eating out more often or choosing more convenience foods as an alternative. But these convenience foods tend to be high in fat, sodium and sugar and don’t typically include enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have been proven to reduce cancer risk, as well as the risk of other chronic diseases.
Following are tips for easy meals that don’t leave you with days of leftovers or mountains of dishes to clean up.
Supplement with fruits, vegetables and whole grains
When using prepared foods, don’t take them as they are, but add the healthful ingredients that may be missing:
- Canned soup: Add sautéed vegetables, frozen mixed vegetables, or canned, rinsed beans to increase the anti-cancer rich ingredients.
- Boxed pasta or pasta sauce: Add sautéed or frozen vegetables to decrease the fat and calories per serving. Add canned beans, chicken or tuna, or frozen, thawed shrimp for added protein without additional effort.
- Deli items: Add canned tuna and chopped vegetables to pasta salad or add vegetables or beans to other sides such as potato salad, coleslaw or rice dishes.
- Baked chicken: complement with a salad and baked potato cooked quickly in the microwave. Top with low-fat cheese for a complete meal.
- Frozen pizza: make it gourmet by adding several different sautéed or roasted vegetables, or canned pineapple.
- Rice, barley, quinoa or other whole grains: After cooking, add pine nuts, dried fruit, grated or chopped vegetables, seeds or herbs to bring it from average to superb.
- Canned beans: Just fill a tortilla with drained or fat-free refried beans, vegetables and salsa for an easy, no cook burrito.
- Salad mix: top with nuts, seeds or hardboiled egg whites, dried or fresh fruit, and chopped or grated vegetables for a meal that packs a protein, nutrient and fiber-rich punch.
Consider shopping and cooking with friends. A whole cabbage may be too much for you to eat in a week but perfect when split with a friend. Or you can take turns cooking or share leftovers for more variety and less effort.
A few healthful snacks can substitute for a bigger meal. Focus on whole fruit or cut-up vegetables with nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, or whole grain bread or crackers with hummus dip or peanut butter.
Lastly, don’t discount making bigger batches of foods that will freeze well such as soups, casseroles and breads. These can be frozen in single or double serving portions to use on busy or low-energy days, instead of resorting to takeout or pre-packaged food that is higher in sodium and fat.
Take the next step:
- Spruce up your menus with these delicious, healthful recipes from our cancer nutritionists.
Continue reading about healthy eating and cancer prevention:
- Plant-Based Diets: Why all the hype?
- Tips for Buying Superfoods and Prepping Veggies
- Fads Fade Fast But Healthy Eating Sticks
- Organic Curiosity:Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic?
Registered dietitians who are specially trained in the field of oncology nutrition provide cancer nutrition services at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. They focus on assessing the individual dietary and nutrition needs of each patient and providing practical, scientifically sound assistance.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.