Cooking more healthfully doesn’t need to be a painful task, but if you’re falling into these common traps you may be fighting an uphill battle. How many of these habits do you need to break?
You don’t measure high calorie ingredients
There is such thing as “too much of a good thing.” While there’s no disputing that ingredients like olive oil, nuts, avocado and nut butters offer healthy fats, inflated portions can lead to inflated waistlines. When each tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, and each cup of cooked whole grain pasta adds up to 200 calories, it’s important to measure out these ingredients to avoid a calorie overload.
You defrost meat on the countertop
Is it common practice for you to toss that package of frozen chicken on the countertop before you leave for work? This is a food safety nightmare waiting to happen. The drastic temperature shift from freezer to counter rolls out the red carpet for potentially harmful bacteria and foodborne illness. Instead defrost meat safely overnight in the fridge. Or if you’re in a time crunch, defrost in the microwave then cook immediately.
You salt before tasting
It’s reflex for most folks to sprinkle, the salt shaker before you dig in. But what if that meal didn’t need any extra seasoning? Salt is an important electrolyte and enhances the flavor of food. But since most Americans take in far beyond the daily allotment of 2300 milligrams per day (about 1 teaspoon), it makes sense to taste for seasoning beforehand. Don’t skip the salt, just season smart and experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor without extra sodium.
You don’t practice portion control
Many healthy recipes are low in calories per serving, but portioning out your meal still matters. It’s also imperative to recognize the different between a serving and a portion. A serving of food is a specified fixed amount that’s reasonable for the type of food. You’ll find designated servings on a food labels or within the dietary guidelines. A portion is the amount of food that’s right for you; this may be greater than or less than a serving.
You don’t read the entire recipe
Attack that pile of magazine clippings and bookmarked recipe web pages with confidence. Read the recipe in its entirety first to ensure you have all the ingredients, and all the steps are clearly mapped out. Nothing will sabotage a recipe like a surprise ingredient, utensil or cooking method you weren’t prepared for.
You forget about roasting
Create healthy recipes with nothing but an oven and a sheet pan. Roasting at high heat (around 400 to 425 degrees F) is a sweet spot for nutritious staples like vegetables and lean meats. Roasting develops depth and caramelized flavor, which can be totally different than other common prep methods.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.