Cooking at home seems like a far healthier option than dining out, right?
Maybe not. A recent study found that theÂ more time middle-aged women spent cooking at home, the more likely they were to suffer from metabolic syndrome. The reason for the finding may be that the study didnât identify exactly what the women were cooking, so there was no way to measure the healthfulness of their homemade meals.
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.
So before you whip up another “healthy” meal, make sure you aren’t making these far-too common cooking mistakes:
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.
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.
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.
4. Nibbling while cooking
Many of my clients start keeping food diaries soon after our first consultation, and some are shocked to discover just how much they eat while prepping and cooking. One client regularly downed a glass of wine (or two) while popping cheese cubes, nuts, or crackers as she prepped. That mindless munching resulted in taking in up to 300-400 extra calories, which is enough to keep her at least two sizes larger than her weight goal.
The fix: If youâre hungry when you start making dinner, munch on low-calorie raw veggies like bell pepper or sliced cucumber. Or factor your prep-time snack into your meal budget. For example, if you want to nibble on nuts, reduce the amount of olive oil you use in your dinner.
h/t: everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/cooking-mistakes-may-cause-weight-gain/ ; health.com/food/4-cooking-mistakes-that-make-you-gain-weight