How To Cook with Less Oil

One of the more common questions I get is how to cook with less oil or fat when trying to watch calories or when people are watching their cholesterol levels. Let’s first talk about the purpose of cooking with oil, the purpose fats have in nutrition, and then how to cook with less.

Purpose of Oil in Cooking

Stove Top: One of the main reasons to have oil in a recipe when cooking on a stove top or in a skillet is to help the ingredients either not stick to the pan or for the ingredients not to burn. Since oil has a high heat tolerance it helps when vegetables or other ingredients are coated to let them cook through without burning.

Baking: In baking, oil is used to help with keeping the dish from not drying out, so it’s there for moisture.

And let’s face it, things just taste better when there’s a little fat mixed in. That’s the essence of comfort foods. There are some recipes I don’t skip on the oil/fat. For instance, if I’m actually going to indulge and make cookies, or make homemade mac and cheese, or have been craving really fattening mashed potatoes, I don’t skip on the butter. Choose your battles. Because of lessening my oil and fat intake throughout most days, the days I do make something fattening, there is no bad feelings. Now I’m hungry for oatmeal cookies… Let’s talk about fats in nutrition and why it’s needed!

Photo by jonathan ocampo on Unsplash
Purpose of Fats/Oils in Nutrition

There are healthy and non-healthy fats. The easiest way to tell the difference is whether or not they are liquid at room temperature. If they are liquid (olive oil) it is most likely a healthy unsaturated fat. If it is solid at room temperature (shortening or butter) it’s most likely unhealthy saturated fat.

Fats are important in nutrition and to always have in your diet. They help protect the nervous system, is needed for heart health, brain function, digestion, and cell reproduction. All very important reasons to take in fat.

Why Choose a Low Fat Diet?

Fats are are needed in the diet and are needed to be eaten each day, but there is a balance.

Fats are twice as many calories and although we do need them in our diet, it doesn’t take much. Especially now that fats are more abundant and part of most processed foods, in dishes when we eat out, and the fact that things with fat in them taste so much better so we usually will choose the higher fat option.

High fat diets have been linked to heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. All things that can be controlled or lessened by diet.

Still keeping fats in the diet, we want to make sure we are not having excess fat or oil if we can control it. When we do our cooking, there are plenty of ways to cook with less fat and make sure the fats we are eating are more of the healthy unsaturated fats than the saturated fats.

There are some healthy high-fat diets out there. But you need to do your research and make sure you are doing it the healthy way if you choose to go a high-fat diet route. But for this post, we are talking about lessening the fat/oil in our diets.

Photo by Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash
Cooking with Less Oil

Stove Top Cooking

  • First off, if you have a non-toxic non-stick skillet, use it. You don’t have to use as much oil to help with food sticking, if at all.
  • Start with 1/2 the oil the recipe is saying to use at first. You can always add more later.
  • Cook with lower heat. It might take a little longer but your food won’t burn as quickly.
  • If you can not turn the heat down, starting your dish with chopped onion, celery, mushrooms, etc. on a low heat, will coat the pan in it’s own juices and will help to use less oil. You will most likely have to use some.
  • The other thing, if you are making a sauce or if there will be liquid in the bottom of the skillet and it still calls for oil, try to cook it without it.

For Example: If you are making chili or spaghetti sauce, start on low heat and add any vegetables it calls for like onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc. They shouldn’t need any oil to cook. If it starts to dry out you can always add a small amount of water or broth. Then you can start adding any sauce, beans, tomatoes, etc.

Baking

  • When baking a cake, muffins, bread, etc. always start with 1/2 oil and then substitute the rest with applesauce, mashed banana, pumpkin puree, etc. Whatever flavor will go with whatever you are cooking. It will keep the mixture moist throughout cooking.
  • You can also use those substitutes for the whole recipe if you’d like, but to start off try doing it 50/50.

Pasta

  • Sometimes when I cook pasta I keep the pasta separate from the sauce. Once it’s done cooking you CAN add oil to help it not stick, but after draining the pasta, rinse it with cold water. This will help it not stick and you don’t need any oil. The noodles will be cooler, but the sauce you are using should be hot if you are making a hot pasta dish.

Salad Dressing

  • If you make your own salad dressing, start with 1/2 or even 1/4 of what is called for. I can not tell you how much oil I realized I was using when I started to do this. The other seasonings and any acid like vinegar or citrus juice is what adds the flavor. The oil helps to spread it around and sometimes is needed, but it doesn’t have to be much.

Roasting Vegetables

  • This is a big one for me. Start by using a small amount of oil to make sure the oil is coating the vegetables.
  • Use the shake and bake method. Take whatever vegetables you are using and put them in a large ziplock bag or a glass bowl with a cover. Use only about 1 tbsp or less oil and toss it around to coat. You can always add more if it’s still dry. The oil will go a lot farther this way.
Bottom Line

We can get our healthy fats in a number of ways throughout the day: nuts, seeds, nut/seed spreads, butter, avocado, olives, meat if it’s not super lean, crackers, breads, hummus, guacamole, other spreads and dips, dairy, etc. Cooking with oil adds to your total fat intake throughout the day that might not be needed nutritionally. Oil/Fat is needed in our diet for good nutrition. There are many reasons to balance your diet and a lot of people are seeing the need to keep their fat intake in check for multiple reasons. Cooking with less oil, whether in baking or on the stove is possible with little to no changes in the recipe or flavor and little to no extra effort on your part.

Tips On How To Roast Vegetables

Hello all! One of my favorite ways to cook vegetables is roasting them in the oven. It doesn’t take much and I think the flavors come out better than any other type of method of cooking. Of course vegetables that are green and leafy might not be the best to roast, however, any root vegetable, broccoli/cauliflower, cabbage/brussel sprouts, bell peppers, asparagus, green beans, etc. are great to roast in the oven!

If you are trying to get more vegetables in your diet and trying to find ways to cook them and like them, here is a simple start! Most of the time you just need a small amount of oil and salt and pepper if you desire. Anything else like additional seasoning, or tossing it with a small amount of cheese, is up to you.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Here are a few tips I’ve learned and love to do when I roast my vegetables.

Gallon Bag Toss

Get a gallon size bag and use that to distribute the oil and seasoning. You use less of both and everything is evenly distributed.

Don’t want to use plastic? Put your chopped veggies in a bowl with the oil and seasoning and use a cloth or a reusable cover and toss it around.

I usually start with about 1 tablespoon of oil and if it needs more depending on how much I’m making, I’ll use more. But for the most part, that’s about all you’ll need.

Leave The Skins On!

If you are roasting carrots, beets, potatoes… anything with a thin skin that you can use a peeler on, leave it on! Scrub them to clean them off, but by leaving the skins on you preserve not just nutrients, but flavor. Test it out! Peel a few carrots and the others leave the skin on and see which one has more flavor and sweetness.

Leaving the skin on also helps protect it from burning too quickly and can then be roasted to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.

Don’t Crowd Them

When you spread your vegetables out on the baking sheet, don’t crowd them. Give them room so the heat can be distributed and their juices can evaporate. Otherwise you’ll get mush on the outside and hard in the middle. If you give them room it should all cook evenly and be crispy on the edges.

Roasting Vegetable Chart

So what are you going to try first?

 

How To Do An Elimination Diet

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week and I wanted to share how to do an elimination diet if you are trying to see if you or someone in your family has a reaction to a certain food. Food allergies are important to recognize since they can have different physical, mental, and emotional reactions. Some are severe reactions and are life threatening, others are more of a “quality of life” reaction. Even the less severe reactions need to be recognized, because I don’t know about you, anything that lessens my quality of life and makes me more miserable, needs to be cut out. It’s toxic to your body and doesn’t need to be there, which is why an elimination diet might be the key to finding out if you are allergic to something or not. Let’s look at common reactions to food allergies, what is an elimination diet, and then we’ll get into how to do an elimination diet.

*Note: The elimination diet can be used for a food intolerance as well. Food intolerance and food allergies share some symptoms. If you are not sure if it is an allergy or intolerance, contact a physician. In addition, you can look at my blog post about the difference between the two.

Food Allergy Symptoms
  • Tingling/itching in mouth
  • Hives
  • Itching/Eczema
  • Swelling of Lips
  • Swelling of Face
  • Swelling of Tongue
  • Swelling of Throat
  • Swelling of other parts of the body, including abdomen area
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Fainting

Some other reactions can include emotional responses like increase anxiety, depression, anger, sadness etc.

ANAPHYLAXIS

In some people a food allergy can trigger a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Here are the signs and symptoms:

  • Constriction/tightening of airways
  • Swollen throat, difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause coma or death. Immediate medical attention is critical. If you have this reaction to certain foods, trying an elimination diet with other similar foods might cause the same reaction. If you have experienced anaphylaxis before, consult your doctor before doing an elimination diet or experimenting with new, similar foods, since it might cause the same reaction.

Realize that some of the symptoms might be small enough that you don’t realize a huge change. For instance with me, when I have something with dairy in it depending on how much it is, I might have a small amount of congestion and then it stops after an hour or so. However, if I continue to have dairy on a normal every day basis, sinus and ear infections will come on a normal basis as well. No matter how small the reaction might be, staying away from even those allergies will contribute to help larger problems later.

What Is An Elimination Diet

An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect you might be allergic or intolerant to. An elimination diet takes about 5-6 weeks total. It involves eliminating and then reintroducing that food back into your diet to see if you will have a reaction. Once you have identified a food that might cause a reaction you can eliminate it from your diet to prevent the symptoms in the future.

Again, if you think you have a serve allergy to a certain food, make sure you contact your doctor and are under professional medical supervision.

How To Do An Elimination Diet

ELIMINATION

Remove the food(s) you suspect trigger an allergic response for 2-3 weeks.

Some foods to think about eliminating are those that are known to cause uncomfortable symptoms like: nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs, and shellfish.

You’ll be able to determine if your symptoms are due to the foods you are eliminating or something else.

If symptoms continue after removing the suspected food, consult your doctor.

REINTRODUCTION

Slowly bring eliminated foods back into you diet.

If you do more than 1 food at a time, you might not get accurate results. You can choose to eliminate more than 1 food at the same time, but on the reintroduction phase, only reintroduce 1 food at a time so you know which gives you a reaction, and which does not.

Each food or food group should be reintroduced for 2-3 days before moving to the next. Look for any symptoms major or minor like: rashes, skin changes, joint pain, headaches/migraines, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, bloating, stomach pain, changes in bowel movements, difficulty breathing, congestion, itching anywhere in your mouth, throat, or face, mood changes, etc.

If you don’t experience any symptoms during the 2-3 day period, you can assume the food is fine to eat and can move on to the next.

If you are planning on eliminating a lot of food groups it can cause a nutrition deficiency and you’ll need to consult your doctor.

What NOT To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are other foods and beverages that you might want to avoid to get the best results and that will not interfere with what you are trying to do. A lot of these foods are known to cause inflammation whether there is an allergy, an intolerance, or neither. Foods like:

  • Unhealthy Fats (butter, margarine, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, Black Tea, Soda (or other caffeinated beverages)
  • Avoid any sauces you don’t know the ingredients to
  • Avoid Sugar (white and brown), Honey, Syrup
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Gluten Products,
  • Fried Foods, etc.

Realize the factor of food families as well. If you are allergic to 1 type of nut, then more than likely you’ll be allergic to other types as well. It might not be all, but more than likely you’ll be allergic to another. Same goes for shellfish. If you are allergic to crab, more than likely you’ll be allergic to lobster. Making sure to eliminate those foods related to your allergy will be important to stay away from on an elimination diet.

What To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are plenty of foods to have on an elimination diet that are foods that don’t usually cause inflammation in the body unless you are allergic to them. These foods include:

  • Most fruits, except citrus fruits since they can interfere
  • Most vegetables, except nightshade
  • Grains (like rice and buckwheat)
  • Meat & Fish
  • Dairy Substitutes like coconut milk – beware of soy or nut milks
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil
  • Beverages, water & herbal teas
  • Black pepper, herbs, and apple cider vinegar
Bottom Line

Elimination diets are something useful you can do, but consult your doctor first. They may have some additional suggestions on what to eliminate. If you are eliminating multiple food groups, make sure to consult your doctor as well since it may cause a deficiency.

Elimination diets are helpful to know what might be causing your symptoms and thus knowing what to eliminate in your diet later on.

 

If you have found out something you need to eliminate in your diet, please reach out to me at amandaarroyonutrition@gmail.com. I’d love to be able to help you with it!

Tips to Lower Your Cholesterol

One of the main concerns that I’ve heard from people is their need to lower their cholesterol or wanting to make sure to keep their cholesterol levels in the healthy range. What are some easy things to substitute or change in your diet to help? Let’s first talk a little about what cholesterol does and then we can better understand how to take care of our levels of cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a class of lipids, or fats, that is made by the body for different purposes. For instance, cholesterol can be incorporated as part of the structure of cell membranes, used to make bile for digestion, made into vitamin D, and used to make sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. However, cholesterol can be deposited in the artery walls which leads to plaque build up and heart disease. How does it find itself there?

As you may know, water and oil don’t mix. For the fat to be transported during digestion it has to go through water based liquids, like blood. Those fats are combined with special proteins so that it can transport through the body. Lipoproteins are what those clusters are called and these include HDL and LDL. Cholesterol is a part of the cluster.

The difference in the HDL (high-density) lipoproteins and the LDL (low density) lipoproteins are the amount of fat (or cholesterol) they are transporting. The more cholesterol the less dense the lipoprotein will be. The more protein the more dense it will be. So the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the healthier one. The Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “lousy” one since it mainly consists of fat. This type is the cholesterol that can be deposited in the artery walls which then can lead to heart disease.

So how can we raise our healthy HDL and lower our lousy LDL?

Lowering LDL Cholesterol Levels

Lower The Amount of Fat in Your Diet

To lower the bad cholesterol means lowering the amount of fats in your diet. The total intake of fats should not be more than 20% of your total calorie intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 400 calories, which would be a total or 44 grams of fat. That is on the HIGH end.

Healthy Fats

When you are watching your fat intake, make sure the fats you are digesting are unsaturated fats and that less than 1/2 of your fat intake (10% total calorie intake, or 20 grams) is from saturated sources. The best way to tell the difference without a label, is that unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (olive oil, avocados, most nuts, seeds, fish) and saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, animal fats). Avoid trans fats at all cost.

Increase Fiber, Fruits, & Vegetables

Fiber in the foods you eat has been proven to help decrease bad cholesterol. Eating more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, etc. will help.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 5-9 servings a day, more being from vegetable sources. Fruits and vegetables (not canned) are our source of antioxidants which helps prevent heart disease and strengthens the body’s defense against cell damage. These antioxidants can neutralize free radicals which contribute to the build up of plaque in the arteries.

Lose Excess Weight

Just as much as a small increase of damaging factors can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, small decreases can have a good effect as well. Just a 5-10 pound decrease in weight is enough to start seeing a decrease in LDL cholesterol in most people.

Bottom Line

Lower the amount of fat in your diet and try to fill your day with low-fat whole foods rich in antioxidants and fiber. If overweight, loosing just 5 pounds can be enough to see a decrease.

Need help in lowing fat in your diet? Take my Free Nutrition Assessment to get my feedback and start getting your diet back on track!

How To Cook Spaghetti Squash

The original “zoodle”, spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash is something easy to make, you just need to know how and to have the time to prep it before. Depending on the size of the squash, it can make a lot, so my suggestion would be to make sure you have people to share it with or have a few different sauces to eat with it throughout the week for meal prep. It doesn’t have much of a taste so any sauce will be the taste. Marinara, pesto, lemon garlic, creamy mushroom, red wine sauce, etc. The dishes are endless. Soon I’ll be sharing some of my sauces to have with spaghetti squash for a lighter and more nutrient dense pasta alternative that’s gluten free.

When I think of spaghetti squash I think of the first time I had it. When my mother was going through chemo treatments, she was trying to eat more organic foods and to stay away from starchy processed white foods. Since spaghetti was a weekly meal for us then, and now, she decided to try it out. It was delicious! The texture is different than pasta, but it is still soft and you can still twirl your fork around and enjoy slurping your favorite sauce!

So let’s get started and I’ll share the nutritional facts after.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Scoop out the center with the seeds.
  • Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half.
  • Scoop out the center and any seeds.
  • Rub with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper if desired.
  • Lay face down and stab with a knife 5-6 times on each side.
  • Once oven is preheated, put in the oven for at least 40 minutes. Depending on the size it might take up to 1 hour.
Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on size.
  • When the skin of the squash looks a little wrinkled and the bottom is started to brown, your squash is ready!
  • Cool for a few minutes and then flip them upside down. With a fork from the longer side toward the center start pulling away the strings.
  • Add with your favorite sauce and enjoy!
Spaghetti squash ready to use and eat!
Nutritional Information

There are nutritional benefits to both, especially if the grain version is a whole grain pasta whether gluten free or whole wheat. But this is a simple and easy way to lighten your pasta bowl and not feel stuffed and bloated after eating a full bowl, or two, of spaghetti. Check out the differences.

1 Cup Spaghetti Squash

  • 31 Calories
  • 0.6 g total fat
  • 7 g carbohydrates
  • 1.5 g fiber
  • 2.8 g sugar
  • 0.6 g protein
  • 2% Vitamin A
  • 3% Vitamin C
  • 2% Calcium
  • 3% Magnsium

1 cup Regular Spaghetti Pasta

  • 221 Calories
  • 1.3 g total fat
  • 43 g carbohydrates
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 0.8 g sugar
  • 8 g protein
  • 0% Vitamin A
  • 0% Vitamin C
  • 1% Calcium
  • 6% Magnesium