Whether you’re living in a dorm room, small apartment, or vacation home, chances are that you’re cooking in a kitchenette.
We know that it can be limiting, but this makes it all the more admirable that you’re still giving healthy meal planning a go. Regardless of the size of your counter or the resources you have available, we’ll help you get the most out of your kitchen.
We gathered our favorite recipes, tips, and tricks that accommodate to your level and access to cookware.
Kitchenette cooking tips
As with any goal, preparation is a key factor. If you can squeeze in some prep before making your meal, all you’ll have to do is piece the meal together when it’s time to cook. It’s like being your own sous chef.
When it comes to kitchenette cooking, like cooking in a hotel room kitchenette, for example, stocking up on the following healthy staples will make it easy to mix and match a meal:
Smoked or canned salmon and tuna
Ready-to-eat turkey and chicken strips
Tofu and edamame
Canned beans and legumes
100 % whole grain products such as bread or tortilla
Canned beans and legumes
Precooked rice and grains
Plain nuts and seeds
Plain nut butter
Using the 8fit Pro meal plan allows you to swap most of the vegetables with other vegetables (just be careful with the starchy ones). You can also interchange most of the fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds for others respectively, as long as they are the same weight.
When a recipe calls for boiling rice or pasta, you can replace it with the same weight of couscous, since you only need boiled water to prepare couscous. Also, when a recipe involves cooking legumes or vegetables, you can get the canned or frozen version instead. This will allow you to prepare a lot more recipes without having a fully equipped kitchen.
If your 8fit recipes call for a blender and you don’t have one, simply serve the ingredients separately. For instance, have yogurt with oatmeal, fruit, and nut toppings, rather than blending them all together. If you don’t have an oven, pan fry ingredients or use a toaster. Only have a microwave? We’ve got a section on microwavable meals below.
One of the easiest ways to get your kitchenette working well is to keep it clean, also whilst you’re cooking. Keeping your space clutter-free will help you be efficient and safe. Lay your ingredients out in an organized way and put them back as soon as they are used.
In terms of space, think about hanging anything you can to ceilings and walls. Wire hanging baskets are really useful! If you have floor space, get a kitchen table with storage and fold-up counter space.
Minimize food for a mini fridge
If you don’t have much fridge space, get creative with how you use it! We suggest choosing a few recipes that you enjoy and repeating them over the week. This way you can buy non-perishable ingredients in bulk, then meal prep and portion the meals out for the week. For instance, you can buy oatmeal, then choose breakfast meals that contain oatmeal for every breakfast that week.
If you choose recipes with non-perishable ingredients such as canned beans, frozen vegetables, and grains like rice, you’ll be able to store these outside of your fridge. Aim for fresh produce in season whenever possible, but don’t be afraid to stock up on frozen foods and keep canned on hand. In order of health and nutrient value, it goes fresh, frozen, canned.
The 8fit app has so many microwavable meals available that you could get by with just your microwave! You can find instructions, cooking times, and microwave facts in our article: Is Microwaving Foods Bad for Your Health?
Breakfast: Banana & cinnamon pudding
Lunch: Microwave potato with vegetables & salmon
Dinner: Tuna, artichoke & basil stuffed potatoes
Snack: Microwave sweet potato with Greek yogurt
In addition to these quick and easy recipes, here are a few tips to make your ingredients cook faster:
Rice: Put microwavable rice into a large microwaveable container and stir together with water, broth, or tomato sauce and seasonings. Microwave on medium-high until the liquid is bubbling and the rice is cooked.
Potato: Clean potato and dry. Pierce with a fork a few times, put on a microwave-safe plate, then microwave on high for five minutes. Flip with a fork or tongs, then cook for an extra three minutes.
Polenta: Mix water with polenta cornmeal. Put in a microwavable bowl, uncovered, on high for five minutes. Stir halfway through.
Eggs: Crack egg(s) in a microwavable mug or bowl and use a fork to whisk in a splash of milk or water. Microwave in 30-second increments and stir between each one until you have scrambled eggs.
Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus): Cut into small, even pieces. Put in a microwavable bowl and add a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook on high for three to four minutes.
No-cook recipes for travel
If you don’t have access to a kitchen, then favor meals that are non-perishable, easy to prep and pack, as well as quick. Here are some in-app examples (go to your 8fit recipe book and search for them):
Breakfast: Cottage cheese with berries and walnuts; Yogurt with oats, apple and almonds
Lunch: Tuna hummus wrap; Quick chickpea salad
Dinner: Hummus and eggs on bread; Mixed black bean salad
Snack: Hard boiled eggs and apple, almond butter and blackberry crackers; Dark chocolate with almonds
Be vigilant with supermarket foods
If circumstances lead you to eat on the go, it’s useful to have a guide as to what to look for. The “healthy” snacks you find in a supermarket are often far from what they claim to be. Granola or energy bars are full of sugar and can make weight loss more difficult. They may not necessarily contain pure sugar, but having honey or lots of dried fruit as a sweetener isn’t much better, because, in the end, sugar is sugar. Be wary of clever marketing!
Whenever possible, take time to check nutrition labels on food. Look at the ingredient list first. If there are a lot of ingredients which don’t sound familiar, it doesn’t really matter what the calorie, fat and sugar content is. Look for a short ingredient list and things you recognize. For instance, on a can of tomato puree, you should see: “Ingredients: tomatoes”.
Try to get carbs from unprocessed foods such as 100 % whole grain products or legumes. Combine these with at least a bit of protein for your meals and snacks. Adding some healthy fat is also an option. Try your best but be forgiving with yourself, because anything is better than skipping meals. Irregular meals confuse the metabolism and often lead to unhealthy cravings.
Some traveling tips
Prepare and pack some meals/snacks in advance.
Have instant plain oatmeal. All you have to do is add hot water, nuts, and your choice of fruit.
Pack some nuts and dried fruit in a ziplock bag.
If you have a sandwich, pick whole wheat bread or wrap with roasted chicken, turkey, cheese or tofu, and add avocado or hummus instead of mayo.
Buy trail mix, nuts, fruit or yogurt, and cottage cheese if you have access to a fridge.
Chop up some celery, pepper and carrot sticks to take away. Add a hummus dip for extra protein.
Boil some eggs as they’re easy to pack and high in protein.
Here’s the deal…
Cooking in a kitchenette may seem close to impossible, but you can fulfill all your healthy cooking necessities with a little organization and preparation. All it takes a little time and flexibility. Download the 8fit Pro app to get your kitchenette friendly meal plan.