Doing all the right things to shed pounds - exercising, trying to eat healthier foods, and cooking more at home - and still not seeing results? One (or all of) these 10 cooking mistakes could be sabotaging your efforts to lose weight.
1. The good fat trap
Regardless of how full of nutrients an avocado is, a whole avocado still clocks in at 322 calories. It can be easy to intuit “good” or “healthy” as “OK to eat.” But because gaining and losing weight is a game of calories in versus calories out, it’s still important to practice moderation. For fats such as avocado, nuts, cheese and olive oil, stick to a thumb sized portion per person when cooking/dishing up. Special attention should be paid when using oil to fry/cook foods. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories. Accidentally glugging in a couple will bring your meal up to 240 calories before you add any other ingredients.
2. Snacking while you cook
Although it’s about as natural as whistling while you work, snacking while you cook could be ruining your diet. It may not seem much at all but every bit of food you snack on contains calories. And calories can quickly add up! Tasting can be crucial to developing a good meal, but if your hunger is making you snack, make sure you have a glass of water on hand to sip on instead.
3. Estimating portion sizes
If you’re dieting, you probably know portion size is one of the most important aspects to trimming your waistline. Proteins should look like a deck of cards, and a portion of cooked rice should be about the volume of a tennis ball. Studies have shown we’re really bad at estimating portion sizes. To stay on your game with portion size, it might actually be worth buying — and using — a kitchen scale or actually measuring out your ingredients.
4. Going crazy with the condiments
Condiments add some much-needed flavour to your healthy meals, but choosing the wrong ones or overdoing it on the sauces can sabotage all your good efforts. Full fat mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, and even light salad dressings and high-sodium soy sauce can be diet destroyers. Fortunately, you can find alternatives. Mustard is usually a healthier choice than mayo (which has lots of fat) and ketchup (which is loaded with sugar). A faux-mayo made with protein-rich Greek yogurt, lemon, mustard, and pepper can be a better choice than the real deal.
5. Relying too much on packaged foods
Everyone loves a shortcut, but relying too much on packaged foods when you’re making dinner could be hurting your waistline. Convenient processed foods are often high in fat, sugar, and salt, which spells doom for your diet. If you’re watching your weight, cutting down on overly processed foods in favour of unprocessed or less-processed ingredients is a smart move.
6. Cooking your veggies wrong
Everyone knows vegetables are part of a healthy diet, and you’re probably trying to add more of them to your plate. But if you’re not cooking them right, you might not be doing as much good as you thought. How you prepare your veggies affects how much of their nutrients are retained. Although cooking won’t necessarily destroy all the good stuff in your vegetables (some, such as carrots, are better for you when cooked), you don’t want to overcook your veg.
Not just because you’re cooking away the nutrients, but a pile of bland and mushy broccoli just isn’t very appetising. If the healthy food on your plate doesn’t taste very good, you might end up eating more servings of less-nutritious food or snacking later because you didn’t fill up at dinner.
7. Getting extra-cheesy
All that cheddar, feta and mozzarella might be delicious, but it’s also high in calories and fat, which means it could be contributing to weight gain.You don’t need to cut out this dairy product entirely if you’re trying to lose weight. Instead, cut back. Reduce the amount of cheese you use in recipes to a thumb sized portion per person.
8. Forgetting to spice it up
Butter, oil, cheese, fatty dressings, and sugary marinades might make your meal taste great — but at the expense of your health. Your weight-loss diet doesn’t have to be bland. Spices and seasonings add flavour to nutritious dishes without extra calories. Plus, making more use of the jars in your spice rack can have other health benefits besides making a low-calorie, low-fat meal taste great. Some can even give your weight-loss goals a little extra boost, including turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and cumin.
9. Using the wrong pan
Plopping your meat in a baking dish, and throwing it in the oven means it’s just going to stew in its own fat. For a healthier dish, put your chicken or steak on a roasting rack, so the fat drips down into the pan, not onto your plate.
10. Serving your meal family-style
OK, so this one isn’t technically a cooking mistake, but how you serve your food could play a role in how easy it is for you to lose weight. Laying out all the food in the middle of the table for the family to ‘dig in’ and help themselves is great! But with leftovers right in from of you, you may find yourself reaching for a second helping even if you really aren’t hungry.
Place the food on the kitchen counter or stove, portion out a serving on your plate and then sit down at the table and eat. This way, if you want additional servings, you’ll have to get up, which helps you to be more mindful of what you are eating.
Making some of these mistakes can accidentally derail some of your weight loss efforts, and you might end up feeling discouraged. Now that you’re aware of these risks, it’s easier to avoid them next time you’re in the kitchen.