4 Cooking Mistakes That May Cause Weight Gain
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s no secret that making a meal at home is better for you than dining out. In fact, a study published in June 2015 in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that cooking at home can help you consume less, fat, carbs, and sugar than eating at a restaurant.
But that doesn’t mean you have the green light to eat mac ‘n cheese every day. “A home-cooked meal can be just as unhealthy as a restaurant meal if you use unhealthy ingredients, cooking methods, or don’t reign in your portions,” says Jackie Topol, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist in New York City. Read on to discover four cooking mistakes that may cause weight gain, plus how to correct them so you can reach your health goals.
Cooking Mistake #1: Using too much oil
“Many people don’t realize how many calories they’re consuming because they eyeball portions,” says Topol. This is especially true for cooking oil. It’s easy to drizzle far more than needed, and that’s a problem since one tablespoon of olive oil contains about 120 calories, which can add up quickly.
The Fix: You still want to use healthy fats like olive oil when cooking, but Topol suggests sticking with two teaspoons, which contains about 80 calories, for most meals. Use a measuring spoon to make sure you don’t pour too much.
Cooking Mistake #2: Following recipes from cooking shows exactly
Those recipes you see on TV might look mouthwatering, but they may not be so great for your waistline. A study published in 2015 in the journal Appetite found that women who watch cooking shows and then whip up meals from scratch have higher BMIs than people who get recipes from print or online sources.
The Fix: Don’t be afraid to make tweaks to recipes, says Topol. For instance, if a recipe calls for regular pasta, swap in a whole-wheat variety so you get an extra hit of fiber. Or, feel free to halve or omit the sugar in a marinade or salad dressing. “Better yet, source your recipes from chefs or food bloggers who are known for more healthful cooking,” says Topol.
Cooking Mistake #3: Avoiding your spice rack
You have tons of herbs and spices — but you frequently forget to use them so they just sit and look pretty on your shelves. But the thing is, spices like smoked paprika, Italian seasoning blends, and curry powder can add megawatt flavor for next to no calories. Plus, spices are packed with antioxidants, which may help fend off certain diseases.
The Fix: Start experimenting with herbs and spices in your cooking. For example, sprinkle turmeric into rice while it simmers, add herbs de Provence to scrambled eggs, or dust smoked paprika on dishes to impart a “bacon-y” flavor.
Cooking Mistake #4: Nibbling as you cook
Calories don’t count if you’re not sitting down when you eat them, right? Not so fast. “Taking even small bites of the ingredients you’re cooking with can really add up if you’re not careful,” says Topol.
The Fix: If you’re someone who likes to nibble while you cook (and who doesn’t?), keep pre-cut veggies like bell pepper strips or cucumber slices on-hand so you have something healthy to munch on while you’re preparing your food. Love to enjoy a glass of wine while you cook? To avoid the extra calories, pour bubbly water (like LaCroix or Pellegrino) into a wine glass for a fancy but calorie-free sip, suggests Topol.