by Joy Bradford, RD, LDN

Every new stage of our lives comes with changes, and at every stage we must adapt in order to be our healthiest selves. Eating habits are not immune from needing adjustments. In fact, these habits are often some of the first behaviors we need to address, as proper nutrition is an essential “ingredient” for our overall physical and emotional wellness.  Most often, I find myself assisting my patients with either having to prepare food for themselves for the first time or needing to cook just for one person when for many years they have cooked for others. The first thing to remember is that you are worth it! You alone are absolutely worth the effort of cooking a meal.  

Here are some tips to help you in your journey to do just that.

Planning your meals – Look through recipes and decide when you would like to have each dish. Write the ingredients down to be added to a shopping list and do your grocery shopping at least once per week to keep from getting overwhelmed. As you try different recipes, keep track of the recipes you would like to have again to help with planning in future weeks. You can keep your favorite recipes in a folder or recipe box or even in a smartphone app. As you are searching recipes, if you find one you like but it yields enough to serve four people, you can either freeze leftovers to use another time or cut all of the ingredient amounts in half to make only 2 servings. You can also invite people to eat with you or share leftovers with neighbors or friends. 

Shopping – Be sure to buy only the fresh produce that you need for your recipes to avoid having ingredients go bad before you are able to use them. Use the bulk bins in the grocery store instead of prepackaged produce to avoid over-buying. Planting a garden with your own fresh vegetables and herbs can also reduce costs and add flavor and quality to your dishes. You can also buy individually packaged proteins like fish and chicken or buy large packages of fresh proteins and freeze individually to pull out and use one at a time as needed. You can use your leftovers as ingredients in other dishes. If you had baked chicken left over from tonight, you could make soup, a sandwich or wrap, or add it to a green salad for lunch the next day. 

Saving time – Use a toaster oven or microwave to reduce time spent cooking. Buying a good sharp knife can make chopping easier and faster. And washing, drying, and cutting up produce before you start the recipe can save both time and frustration while putting the meal together. Lastly, remember that any time you spend cooking is time you are investing in your well-being, and if anything I have said bears repeating it is that you are 100% worth that effort. Bon appetit!

Joy Bradford, RD, LDN, is a Health Coach at Pinehurst Medical Clinic in Pinehurst. She can be reached at 910-235-3347 or