WHILE HOME cooked food is generally more nutritious and lower in calories than take away and restaurant meals, it can also be exceptionally easy to overdo things in the kitchen without even realising it.
Take oil for example — the amount we regularly see celebrity chefs use on their recipes is often adding more fat to the meal than you need in an entire day. So here are the most common cooking mistakes we make at home that pack in the fat, sugar and calories into our “healthy” home cooked meals.
1. Not measuring added fat
While some types of oil are better for us, like extra virgin olive oil, it does not mean that you can consume unlimited volumes of it. We do not need a lot of added fat in our diet, at most just 1-2 tablespoons of added oil each day, but with many of us using a free pour method we actually have no idea how much oil we are actually using. Take control of your fat intake by simply measuring your oil portions out using a tablespoon — at most use 1 tablespoon per person you are serving.
2. Using too many sauces
Certain cuisines including Asian and Mexican dishes often suggest using a myriad of sauces and seasonings to flavour up the meal. Take a standard stir fry, sometimes three or four different sauces are added, each of which adds calories, a whole lot of extra salt and even extra sugar. Again remain mindful of the portions of sauces you are using by always measuring out the recommended amounts and where possible limit any dishes to just one or two added seasonings or sauces to control you total calorie and salt intake.
3. Too much protein
A common cooking habit is to cook a little more meat or chicken or fish than you need with the goal of having leftovers. The reality is that we eat what we cook, so if you cook 750 or 1kg of protein for 4 people, you will eat this amount rather than the 500-600g you actually need. The issue with this style of eating is that we consume far more protein than we need at the expense of low calorie, nutrient rich vegetables. One of the easiest ways to slash calories from your day is to minimise your protein portions and bump up your intake of vegetables and salad.
4. Cooking in oil or butter
Often our default when cooking quick and easy meals is to pour oil in the pan and quickly stir fry up some meat and vegetables. While oil can be used for this purpose, often there are a number of pans and grills that require no added oil in cooking. Another ingenious option is to use baking paper as a lining for the pan to cook fish and sausages without any added fat at all. In the case of mixed dishes, baking paper helps to marinade the protein in any sauce you may be using to give your protein plenty of flavour minus any added fat.
5. The added extras
It may be some feta, or avocado, sour cream, gravy or grated cheese but when we cook at home we are often adding a number of extras to make our meals taste great but which also add literally hundreds of calories. Take control by adding only one extra to meals, and measure out your portions of high fat sauces and toppings such as cheese and sour cream. Or, even better look for lower fat and calorie options including cottage cheese, plain yoghurt or herbs and spices which add flavour with a far fewer calories.