10 Common Healthy Cooking Mistakes

common cooking mistakes

This article lists ten common things that people do when cooking healthy. After looking at why some of these actions are not optimal, there are suggestions to help you improve them.

Don’t sweat it

Even though the title is called healthy cooking mistakes, try to think of these tips as suggestions. Don’t worry if you can’t always follow them. A good diet is the sum of all the meals you eat and none of these things make or break a good diet. Some of the tips might be easier for you to apply than others. Every time you can improve just a small thing it is a great step.

1. Cooking vegetables right after cutting them

When you cut vegetables you break the cell walls within them. This activates certain enzymes. A lot of these enzymes start converting certain substances into more healthful ones. The heat of cooking inactivates these enzymes. It is important to let certain cut vegetables rest before cooking so that this conversion can take place. The newly formed compounds are fairly heat stable and will not get destroyed unless you overcook the vegetables. Similarly, compounds inside and outside the cell can mix and react with the help of some enzymes, forming new substances with healthful properties.

Solution

In order to maximize their healthful properties, let the following vegetables rest for at least 10 minutes before cooking or consuming them: cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, garlic, onions, leeks, mustard greens, collard greens and kale.

Health Tip

In broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and leafy greens it is the enzyme myrosinase which converts some of the phytonutrients into their active forms. Since Vitamin C enhances the activity of this enzyme you could sprinkle some lemon juice on the cut vegetables before cooking to enhance the myrosinase activity.

2. Preparing vegetables ahead of time

While cutting vegetables a little over 10 minutes before using them is a good idea (see Tip 1.), cutting them hours or even days ahead is not optimal. Cutting vegetables increases the surface area where oxidation (contact with air) and nutrient loss can occur. Also, cutting a vegetable is “damaging” to the plant and some of the plant’s nutrients get used up in an attempt to repair the damage. These nutrients will then not be available to you anymore when you consume the plant.

Solution

If preparing vegetables ahead of time helps you to eat more vegetables don’t worry too much. Keep in mind that it is still better to eat them this way than not at all. If you do not have enough time or energy to chop a lot of vegetables right before cooking, try a gadget that makes this step easier. You could use a food processor, a mini chopper, or a mandoline slicer for example. Alternatively, try meals where chopping is not required, like baked sweet potatoes, pureed soups and mashes, artichokes, baby carrots, etc.

3. Peeling vegetables and fruits

A lot of the nutrients are either in or right below the skin of vegetables and fruits. You obviously do not want to peel them off and throw them away!

Solution

Don’t do it! Most of the skins of vegetables and fruits are edible. It may seem a little weird at first to eat a kiwi with its skin on for example, but eventually you will get used to it. If you need to remove the skin in order to make a dish work, try reusing the skin in another way. Using the skin to make a vegetable stock is one idea.

4. Boiling vegetables

While boiling vegetables in water seems like a quick and easy way to prepare them, it is actually the easiest way to lose a lot of the nutrients. Water soluble nutrients leech out into the water and end up being thrown away. Boiling is also an easy way to overcook vegetables and does little to improve the flavor of the vegetable.

Solution

Try an alternative way of cooking vegetables such as roasting, steaming, broiling, stir-frying, sauteing or grilling. If you must boil your vegetables try to use the water in another dish to save the nutrients. You could use it in a sauce, soup or in any dish where you need some water for cooking.

5. Adding oil to pasta-water

It is a common belief that adding oil to pasta-water prevents the pasta from sticking together. Adding oil to pasta water not only does not prevent sticking, but it actually makes it harder for any sauce to adhere to the pasta later on. Even worse, using oil in the cooking water makes it so that some fat soluble nutrients dissolve out of the pasta and end up being tossed out with the water.

Solution

If you want to keep your pasta from sticking together, use the following tips: Make sure you use a large pot with plenty of water so that the paste can move around. Having the water boil at all times also keeps the paste moving. Stir the pasta with a fork every once in a while to prevent sticking. Finally, toss the pasta with sauce right after cooking.

6. Overcooking food

While you can certainly overcook foods like meat, poultry, fish, seafood and grains, vegetables are probably one of the most commonly overcooked foods. Not only can this make them unappealing in taste and texture (stringy asparagus, stinky cabbage, mushy carrots etc.) but it also decreases their nutrient content. It is not uncommon to lose over 50% by overcooking vegetables.

Solution

Instead of posting a cooking chart here (which I will definitely do at some point) I will give you some tips that you can apply to most vegetables. Most vegetables only need to be cooked for about 3-5 minutes, 7-10 at the most (depending on the cooking method). Vegetables should still have a bite to them. Use their color or smell (cruciferous vegetables) as an indicator. Once they start losing color, they are already overcooked. Use a kitchen timer to help remind you to take them off the heat or watch them closely the entire time they are cooking.

Why does color tell us when a vegetable is “done”?

A lot of the molecules that give foods their bright colors are phytonutrients (often antioxidants) and therefore beneficial for us. Heat changes the shape of these molecules making them absorb different parts of the light spectrum. They therefore “change” in color. The structure of a molecule is also what ultimately determines its function and therefore a change in structure also means that the molecule most likely lost its beneficial properties.

7. Using olive oil to cook

Ever since the message got out that olive oil is very healthy, people have been using it as a replacement for butter and other fats in cooking. While it is true that olive oil it is very healthy, it is not good for cooking. Phonyphenols, which are the main phytonutrients in olive oil are almost completely diminished after just a couple of minutes of cooking at very high temperatures. Also, healthy fats get oxidized during cooking and free radicals are created. The longer the cooking time and the higher the cooking temperature, the worse it is for the oil and your health.

Solution

You would be surprised how few recipes actually need oil during the cooking process. Most of the time you can use broth instead of oil to saute vegetables etc. Since fats are important for carrying flavor molecules and for making certain nutrients more bio-available, it is a good idea to add some oil after cooking. Simply stir in some oils into soups, sauces and pour some over vegetables and grains before serving. This way the oil will not only taste better but you can benefit from all its healthful properties.

8. Underseasoning food

In healthy cooking you can’t use a ton of fat or salt to make foods taste better. You rely much more on herbs, spices, and seasonings to make things taste good. Most spices, herbs, and seasonings have unique health properties and will not only make a dish taste better but also healthier.

Solution

You can learn about seasonings in books or simply go into the kitchen and experiment! Nobody is born knowing what flavors go well together and what the right quantity of spice is for a certain dish. The more you practice the better you will get and the better your food will ultimately taste and be for you.

Did you know… ?

Seasonings and spices have even been shown to reduce the risk of food poisoning. The more antioxidants a food contains, the greater its ability to inhibit bacterial activity. Oregano, cloves and cinnamon are among the most effective. Rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves are also extremely rich in antioxidants.

9. Charring vegetables and meats

Grilling is often thought of as a healthy cooking method since it reduces the need for oil. But due to the high temperature, meats and even vegetables often become charred. This of course can also occur in the oven or in a pan. Charring is not only is a sign that nutrients have been destroyed, but harmful free radicals and carcinogens are created in the process.

Solution

Charring or searing food gives it a special taste and is therefore often desired. It is ok to eat these foods once in a while, but if you find yourself eating mostly blackened or seared foods, you may want to try alternative cooking methods. Try cooking something in a flavorful broth, steaming, sauteing or baking at a low temperature.

10. Not washing produce properly

While most people wash produce that will be enjoyed whole, other fruits and vegetables that will be peeled are often not. Harmful bacteria that sits on the outside can easily be transferred to the inside when the produce is cut. You can also spread the bacteria with your hands when handling the produce.

Solution

It is important to wash fruits and vegetables under running water before handling them. Also make sure you throw away the outermost leaves of cabbages and lettuces since they are the most likely to be contaminated. While food poisoning is an annoyance for most people, it can be more serious for the elderly, young children, or people with compromised immune systems. In rare cases, unlucky people have also lost limbs or even died due to bacterial infections from food (through cuts). While these cases are relatively rare it is better to be safe than sorry.

I hope you were able to find some tips that will be helpful to you! Again, when trying to eat healthy, every step in the right direction is a good step.

– Christina

74 comments

  1. Ange says:

    Thanks for sharing this great list! I’ve never heard about the tip of waiting 10 min before cooking cut veggies!

    • You are welcome Ange! Yeah number 1. is not something you commonly hear. But for example, almost all of garlic’s cancer fighting properties only develop after you have let it sit. So if you eat a lot of veggies for their protective benefits I think this is something really important to know. That is why it is my number 1. ! haha

  2. coco says:

    great tips! I used to wash/cut veggies during weekend to have them prepared for the week. Now I’ve been lazy and stop doing that… it turned out that it’s healthier this way! ;)

  3. Rachel says:

    Hi there Christina! I just read about some nutrition myths in the latest Cooking Light magazine (http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/nutrition-myths-facts-00412000067116/index.html) and they say that cooking with olive oil is just fine…that as long as you stay under the smoke point & store it correctly, the oil’s nutrients remain intact. From other things I’ve read, olive oil has a fairly high smoke point so I think it might be fine to cook with it. Plus, it’s full of good fats!

    • Thank you for the link. I like when my readers are skeptical!

      I will probably write about this in more detail and you are right I did not give a good enough explanation as for why it is not optimal.

      To me, it is not a question of it is ok or not ok to do it. Like I said, healthful eating is about the sum of all the eating/cooking. And it is certainly not true that the moment you put olive oil in pan to cook it is not healthy anymore. How “healthy” something is, lies on a spectrum. Like vegetables that continuously lose nutrients after they are being stored… there is not one point where they turn from healthy to unhealthy.

      Same with oils. It is just basic chemistry that due to exposure to heat, light and air the properties of oil changes (this applies to other foods too) and these changes are not favorable. Polyphenols are being reduced and you can even see that. Take some bright green olive oil… the green is due to the polyphenols. Heat it in a pan and see how it turns a yellow color and how the flavor changes. This is all the evidence you need, the chemical properties are changing, the polyphenols are being reduced. You have probably experienced nuts going rancid before, that is when the oil goes bad. The same can happen with oil, when it is exposed to air or light for too long. Hence the tainted glass bottles etc. Heat (from cooking or other) speeds up chemical reactions and this means it speeds up oxidation too.

      Of course it is “ok” to cook it with it once in a while. But I have to disagree with the smoking point argument. When an oil has reached its smoking point, it is broken down, aka bad… but this does not happen within one second. The process of the oil becoming less healthful is continuous and starts the moment the oil is extracted. That is also why you should buy small bottles of oil to ensure freshness. So my whole point is that it is better to use the oil “raw” whenever possible and a lot of the times it is possible. But it is still “ok” to cook a little bit with it… this is just a guide for making improvements.

      Also the smoke point of olive oil highly depends on the olive oil used and how much it has been processed. The smoke point can range from 220-460. Also, keep in mind that manufacturers and magazines that showcase healthful recipes have an incentive of telling everyone how it is perfectly healthy to cook with oil. If they said otherwise people would start wondering why they keep cooking with it in their recipes. And they do not want to limit their recipes and coming up with recipes where you don’t heat oils, since that might seem like too much of a problem.

      Hope this helped! Let me know if you have more questions or want to see research papers on this!

      Thanks for bringing this up!

      • Rachel says:

        Thanks for such a detailed reply! If you wouldn’t mind sharing a research article or two that would be great. Now I’m fascinated by this because all you ever do is “heat oil in pan” when you cook! I’ll have to try broth next time!

        • While I found a ton of research papers a lot of them you have to purchase if you want to read them. Here is one that you can read partially for free. But you could just find information on the oxidation of fats and it will then be obvious that heat affects oils in negative ways. Even if it is just a little in some instances, adding it after cooking is better.

          I will post more articles in the future that talk more about this way of cooking. I talked a little bit about it in the cauliflower post and I explained it in more detail in one of the comments… you could read that if you are interested.

          Yes, you are so right, most recipes start with oil in the pan. I like this alternative way of cooking since you also have more control about how much oil you are eating, Which is extremely important if you are counting calories for example. You add no extra calories during cooking and simply add a certain amount of oil at the end. You mix for example a teaspoon (or 1/2 tablespoon) into your portion of soup before eating. It is great for calorie control. But I love it most because it just taste so much better. You can try eating it without and then adding some oil, the flavors get so intense! I love it!

  4. Jessica says:

    I love the suggestion of using stock instead of oil to cook. I do this a lot when sauteeing veggies. This is a great post!

  5. nic says:

    thanks for this great post!!!
    i knew most of it but a few points really surprised me!!
    thanks again and have a wonderful day, hun!

  6. Some great tips here. I’m guilty of, like, almost all of them lol. Will try to make better cooking decisions in the future :).

  7. Ameena says:

    Great information! I had no idea that veggies need to rest like meat does. Kind of funny when you think about it!

    And I love adding olive oil after the cooking process. Such a smart idea.

    • haha, I did not know meat had to rest! I learn something everday. I guess that is because I have never cooked any “meat” before… only chicken, fish and seafood. And I call myself a foodie…. haha

  8. Awesome tips!! I had never heard the oil in pasta water thing, although I would never think to do that either so I guess that’s a good thing.

    I have heard the thing about cooking with olive oil and how olive oil is best in its cold state, in dressings, etc. However, I heard that if you coat veggies first, then put in the pan to sautee, etc it is better? rather then tossing in the oil to let it heat up then adding veggies.

    Hm. What about roasting veggies, which calls for olive oil typically?

    • Even though I have not seen specific research on coating the veggies first, it does make some sense. Since the oil is not heated first, the overall exposure to heat might be reduced and therefore the “damage” that can occur. Also, coating the veggies first gives is some time to take up some antioxidants within the veggie (beta carotene in carrots for example) which will help counteract the oxidation that occurs in the oil during cooking.

      But overall it is still better to add it at the end. After all, you are trying to get these antioxidants to help your body and the more you use them up (to help the oil or the veggies during cooking) before consumption the less there are for you.

      I find that oil is not necessary to roast vegetables, they turn out fine. And I really love the fresh taste they get when they are tossed with fresh olive oil afterward. I do that with my french fries too. So that they still have this “greasy” feeling, but it is more like a french fries salad… haha But if you must use oil it is better to use something more heat stable such as coconut oil. Just don’t go overboard and try to only do it when it is absolutely necessary.

      Hope this helped!

  9. Jill says:

    Thanks for the info!! I had no idea that I should be letting cut up veggies sit before cooking. And using broth instead of oil to saute is an awesome idea!!

    • Thank you Jill! Yes, letting them rest a little is so easy to do and makes such a difference! I love it.

      I will definitely write more about cooking with broth, but some of the previous recipes talk a little about it already.

  10. Great info! I didn’t know about #1! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Kat says:

    Wow, great tips!! I bookmarked this to my window for further reading & memorizing. Definitely would never have thought about letting my veggies sit after cutting them. Thanks for posting this!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I am so glad that I found your blog. This post was so informative and something I needed to be educated on! Also, I love how you and your husband met. It’s so sweet.

  13. Jenn says:

    I’ve never heard of number #1 and it’s probably one of those things that I’m just going to have to let slide for sanity’s sake. :-)

    Great tip of the cooking veggies in broth!!

    Question – I’ve heard of the carcinogenic effect of charred meats but I’ve read that vegetables are fine to char? Can you shed a little more light on this for me? I happen to really like charred (grilled) veggies.

    • Haha, agreed, just do your best!
      If you are going to do it with just one vegetables make it garlic… one of the main substance that makes garlic cancer protective is not found until you have let it sit for a while. I always just crush the garlic first and then chop the other veggies, so that by the time I am ready to cook it has been more than 10 min.

      About your question… it is true that some of the most potent carcinogens (heterocyclic amines) in “charred” meats cannot be found in vegetables. They are the result of a certain amino acid composition and creatine, which are not found in vegetables. However, charring vegetables creates other carcinogens… So carcinogens are also in the black parts of vegetables. Even caramelizing onions creates harmful substances.

      It is easy to worry too much about these things and you have to see the big picture. You will always eat or get in contact with carcinogens… it is good to try to counteract that by eating lots of things that protect us. If you do eat charred veggies on occasion maybe eat them with something that contains a lot of antioxidants etc. Of course, try to find alternative cooking methods or recipes that you enjoy equally so that you can reduce your exposure. But don’t give up something you truly love if there is just no replacement for it. Moderation and the diet overall again is key here.

      Hope this helped! Thanks for the great question!

  14. Karin says:

    I’ve never heard of the first point either.. That’s very interesting to know, thanks!

  15. Great tips! I am definitely guilty of a few of those…especially the charring vegetables…I love the way that burnt goodness tastes! Bummer!!

    • You can still eat them of course. Just maybe eat something antioxidant rich with it or as a desert. Some fresh berries, pomegranate juice with water etc. Just try to not only eat charred foods, which I know you don’t.

  16. Mo says:

    I forget which post it was, I think the oven fries one that first brought me from Foodbuzz to here, but as soon as you said that olive oil shouldn’t be cooked with, I immediately stopped using it to cook. Less expensive that way, too, and the difference isn’t really noticeable at all. I’ve heard that canola oil is healthier, anyway. Is that true?

    This is an awesome post, and I’m amazed by how knowledgeable you are regarding food and health. And, I like that you take it a step further and it’s not just “low-fat this, low-sugar this” but you actually get right into the molecular processes that our food goes through to show how to make something better for you. I’m really interested in food science so of course this is great reading material.

    I’m still unsure about eating kiwi skin, though. XD

    • Thank you for your feedback! I am glad you like it! ☺

      Great! I still consume a lot of olive oil, I just always mix it in afterward. But maybe you do use less overall, I am sure some people use a ton for cooking. You also have really nice control this way about how much oil you are getting. I am not a big fan of canola oil at all. While it is true that the ratio of fats is better in canola oil, the fat ratio is something that matters when you look at the diet as a whole. So if you get omega-3 from fish and other sources the ratio of the oil does not matter. Also, canola oil is processed and I don’t trust a lot of the research since it is often funded by that whole industry. There are also some studies and sources that say it even contains trans fat or rancid oils. So while it is hard to say what the truth is, I feel much safer using olive oil, since there people agree on things. Of course, one of the healthiest things about olive oil are the polyphenols… I would use it just for that. Just make sure it is extra virgin olive oil and cold pressed.

      Haha, yes Kiwi skin… fuzzy. Maybe you could just use the skin in a smoothie, as long as you get those nutrients in… it does not matter how. ☺

      • Mo says:

        You’re welcome! Well, I do use a good brand of olive oil quite a bit but I don’t use it in cooking now. I’m kind of bummed about the canola oil since it’s one of 3 fats that I ever use (butter in tiny amounts being the unmentioned one). What about for baking? Is there an alternative that’s better?

        I actually don’t even eat kiwis that often but I drink lots of smoothies in the summer so I’ll try that out. =)

        • Oh I am sorry to always give you bad news! But the good news is that these things don’t make or break a healthy diet. They are suggestions for improvement, but having an “optimal” diet is just not realistic. We also don’t even know what that even means! So I would not worry too much about it. Do what you can an enjoy good food! Being happy is probably going to affect your health more at this point. If you can use more olive oil instead of canola, great, but if you don’t get a lot of omega-3 FA otherwise, maybe canola is better overall, it is hard to tell.

          About baking… I have to tell you that I am not a baker, so the things that I say here have not been tested by me! I think that eating butter in moderation is ok. So is coconut oil, which has some advantages over butter. Both are of course “heat stable” and good for baking. I am sure you already know all about replacing fat with purees and mil products etc. so that of course is always an option too. Personally, I think that most baked products are not very healthy for other reasons, especially if they cannot be made without any fat. So since you already eat these things in moderation you can use these fats. A healthy diet is really about the big picture! If you want to use oils, there are some that are more heat stable than others, avocado oil for example.

          What do you use for baking now? Does it just not work without fat?

        • Mo says:

          (The reply button on your response is gone so I’m replying to myself.)

          Thanks for the reply. I’m not really sure how much Omega-3 I get, because I don’t eat fish as often as I should, especially not salmon, and but I do eat flax and pepitas fairly often; I could probably use more haha.

          I might try coconut oil, if I can find it, and I’ll look into other heat-stable oils. For baking I either use canola oil or a combination of the two if I feel like whatever I’m making would benefit from the butter. And a lot of the stuff I make doesn’t actually require extra fat for moistness if I’m using other ingredients that make up for the moistness (eggs, applesauce, yogurt, etc). But like you said, fat is normally helpful, flavor-wise, because it carries the flavor molecules. So while I normally use it in small amounts in baking, if at all, sometimes in certain things it is necessary and it lacks something when I leave it out.

          The maximum that I use is 2 tbsp of fat per recipe, but I guess since it’s not like I’m using a ton and it’s not an everyday thing, it’s not that bad.

        • Beth says:

          Applesauce is a great substitute for oil in baking. I’ve done it in cakes, quick breads, muffins, cookies and all have turned out with the same taste and moisture.

  17. Regarding shortening your cooking time, what do you think of a slow cooker? Does the long cooking time eliminate most of the vitamins or do they stay in the veggies because very little liquid evaporates in the process?
    Thanks!

    • Great question! You are right that since you consume the liquid and the water can’t evaporate as well in a closed pot that some nutrients that would be lost in boiling stay in the slow cooker and get consumed (if you eat all the liquid). But nutrients are also lost by just long exposure to heat. And there is where slow cookers are disadvantageous. It is hard to find specific research on the nutrient retention of slow cookers, so I can’t give you exact numbers. But I can say that slow cooking is inferior to other cooking methods (not boiling) that only take a couple of minutes. You just have to look at the food that comes our of a slow cooker. The colors are not vibrant and sometimes even grayish, brownish. That means a lot of the nutrients ( especially antioxidants) have been lost etc. It is not an optimal way of preparing food, but If it helps you to eat more home-made meals and vegetables than it is an ok option. But keep in mind that if you cook vegetables the right way, they often don’t take very long, so maybe a slow cooker is not necessary. Or if you cooked meals ahead of time and then only had to reheat them… that would be better too and equally fast.

      Slow cookers are also often a problem with food poisoning. Never cook beans in a slow cooker (canned ones are ok) since some beans are highly toxic in their raw state and slow cooker are not hot enough to make sure you don’t end up eating the toxins (there have been some bad cases, but it rarely gets out into the public). Also, due to the low temperatures, depending on how you handle the food etc. it is easy for bacteria to grow to large amounts, causing food poisoning.

      • Thanks so much for the reply! I think this is the last straw – we bought this slow cooker about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been struggling with it a couple of times. It is really slow and the food either comes out too raw or too dry. I was very seriously considering returning it. And now your answer makes me feel better about that decision :-)

  18. Helena Mullett says:

    Maybe I missed it but what oil should I use to saute/cook with? I make chicken breasts rolled in bread crumbs and I just don’t see saute-ing them in anything but oil. How do you saute meat in liquid? don’t get it . . . It seems like “sauteing” in liquid is like simmering, unless you kinda scorch whatever it is you are sauteing. Butter, unless claified, gets brown in a hot pan. Also, what do you mean by roasting vegetables? Lay them out on pan under the broiler in the oven? i am just not used to cooking without some oil or butter but I know it would be a good idea to at least cut back. I need to learn more about herbs and spices too, to cut back on fat for flavor.

    • Hi Helena, I understand how the whole cooking in broth thing can be confusing, since almost every cookbook recipe or recipe on TV uses oil to cook. It looks like I should write a post specifically on that or maybe even record a video… I will try my best here to answer some questions and explain it a little better. Bear with me.

      First of all, the amount of broth is crucial. That is where there is the difference between boiling/simmering and “sauteing in broth”. In the other cooking methods you either drain the liquid at the end (once the food is cooked) or eat it since it is part of the meal. In the broth saute method you will end up with no or very very little liquid (if desired) once the food is done. So the purpose of the broth is to create a layer between the food and the pan to prevent sticking AND to evaporate so that the food gets lightly steamed. The first point replaces one function of oil (prevent sticking) and the second point reduces cooking time, preserving nutrients and flavor more.

      This method works perfectly for all vegetables. Meat, fish and seafood can be a little trickier depending on what you are going for. Since meat tends to stick more, a good pan is more important than when cooking vegetables. It should be something that does not stick well (calphalon, cast iron) but try not to use “non-stick” since chemicals from them can leech into the food. When you cook meat/poultry sometimes you might want to get a sear. The oil is not really necessary for that as long as your pan is good. Make it hot and add chicken breast for example. It will start sticking to the pan immediately. The key is DON’T move it. Try not to get it lose, simply wait until it got a nice sear and it will come off. This is one way if really need to get that sear. You can then finish cooking while adding a little bit of broth, letting it evaporate, adding it again… This way you can also get a flavorful broth that you can use as a sauce (add spices etc.). You mentioned a crusted chicken. Generally it is hard to make a crust in the pan without a ton of oil. You are essentially frying it then… a healthy alternative is baking. Like the asian sesame chicken nuggets. Would that work? Of course it is possible that there is a dish that just NEEDS oil in a pan, and please keep in mind it is ok to cook this way once in a while. It is all about your diet as a whole and improving where you can. If there is a special recipe you love, then go ahead and make it with oil and enjoy it! But if you are looking for healthier alternatives, use oils that are more heat stable than olive oil. And make sure that you never heat it so much that it starts to smoke. Coconut and Avocado oil are two that are more heat stable. As long as you eat these in moderation (like most foods) you are fine!

      About the roasting… roasting means cooking something with dry heat. Often this is just a fancy word for “cooking it in the oven”. Using the broiler is different, that is an intense heat from one source rather than creating a hot environment where the food gets cooked. Broiling is much more like grilling, just without direct contact. For roasting you generally heat the oven to 350°F – 450°F and cook vegetables on parchment paper for a couple of minutes. I love this way of cooking since it requires minimal clean up (no pans). The longer you keep them in there, the browner they get. Make sure not to overcook them this way either. Try to cook them so that they are not brown all the time, while this is tasty it is not optimal nutritionally. But again, some dishes want this smoky, charred flavor.

      Have you tried any of the recipes yet? Let me know if you have questions about them. Maybe they will show you how to cook without using oil etc.

      Yes, herbs and spices are so important. I am excited to write about that!

      • Helena Mullett says:

        I’ve made the delicious smoothie which has given me ideas to create my own – love the almonds! and the chicken nuggets which were a hit. My family wasn’t so crazy about the spicy dip, I probably should cut back on the mirin. They happily ate the chicken without a dip. i want to roast vegetables. My picky daughter will leap on bell peppers done that way. i generally cook at 350 unless the recipe asks for higher. Is it merely a matter of (how much) time as to the temp you pick for a vegetable? 7 will try the black bean soup definitely. Thank you for you ideas and guidance. Helena

  19. kate says:

    Love this list (and all the effort you put into each post!). I rarely cook with oil. For me its more of just wasted calories that Id much rather use somewhere else!

  20. Thanks for sharing! I honestly didn’t know some of these, so I will have to print them out. Hope you’re doing well!

    Hope

  21. […] Christina at Healthy Foodie posted 10 common healthy cooking mistakes […]

  22. Joke says:

    Thank you so much for this post!
    If you have time, please do a post on the cooking in broth thing, I’m so curious about that! I read your explanations to Helena, let’s see if I can figure something out.
    What kind of broth do you use? Where do you store it? Could I also just use some water when I don’t have broth on hand?
    Should the broth be boiling first?

    • You are so welcome! I should do a post about that shouldn’t I… haha

      You can just use water. Broth just adds that flavor. But if you already season the food well, it is not important. I use veggie, chicken or mushroom broth, depends on the dish. I like to use bouillon concentrate and then just mix it with water before use. This way you can control the sodium better. Just make sure the bouillon is natural and does not contain unhealthy fats etc.

      Yes, the broth should be boiling. You want the water to evaporate so that is “steams” the food and so that the water cooks off.

      Hope that helped a little!

  23. I love the tips – very true!

    I always nag at my hubby about his produce washing habits … he just doesn’t get it!

  24. Sandra says:

    Great.You have actually listed all the mistakes which are made in cooking.Peeling the fruits and overcooking the food are some common mistake people make.I have come to know about the various other mistakes which i should not repeat it afterwards.Thanks for sharing.

  25. Great blog! Very informative. I practiced some of those things listed and I didn’t even know that it was a mistake. Thanks for correcting my bad habit.

  26. Sarah says:

    Hey Christina,

    I was just wondering whether it was best to eat things like carrot, tomatoes, celery raw- e.g. for a snack? I find I get less bloated when they have been cooked- carrots in particular (e.g. microwaved for a minute or so), but am I losing a lot of nutrients by doing this?

    Thankyou!

    • Hi Sarah,

      You probably get bloated from eating raw veggies because you have a hard time digesting them properly. They reamin in your intestine too long and the undigested fibers (cellulose etc.) are the perfect food for many intestinal bacteria, which then cause gas as a product of their metabolism. Feeding these litte guys has some benefits, but bloating is uncomfortable and poorly breaking down food means getting less of their nutrients out. This leads me to your question of whether it is best to eat veggies raw. The short answer is, no. Sure, cooking decreases the amount of some nutrients, but cooking also helps “predigest” the veggie if you will so that more nutrients can get absorbed. Many cooked vegetables have far more antioxidants than raw ones, due to this. So it is a slight trade off. If you want to maximize nutrients from a veggie, try to hit the “sweet spot” when you cook. Cook it just enough to unlock the goodness and make it digestible, but not too much so that a lot of nutrients get lost. Cooking method obviously makes a difference as well. Steaming is great. If you have issues with your bowels (IBS etc.) cooking them and chewing well can help prevent some symptoms. Furthermore, cooking only decreases vitamins gradually and some more than others. If you have a nutritious diet, you should get enough of all vitamins from cooked food.

      Some studies show that microwaving causes a higher loss of some nutrients than other cooking methods (mainly Vitamin C), but it is controversial. If you have the time, try steaming them or pan fry them instead.

  27. Sarah says:

    Also, what do you think about rice bran oil for cooking e.g. in stir fries instead of using sesame and olive oils like a lot of recipes suggest?

    • I would not recommend rice bran oil for cooking. When choosing a healthy oil for cooking you want to make sure it is very heat stable. Heat, light and air all increase the oxidization of oils. Oxidized oils are very damaging. More and more studies suggest that it isn’t the saturated fat that is the bad guy in heart disease, but rather oxidized fats. Trying to prevent the ingestion and production of oxidized fats is a main point in a healthy diet.

      Each oil is a blend of different types of fats. Each of these fats have different stabilities. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are very unstable and oxidize easily. A third of rice bran oil consists of PUFAs, so it oxidizes easily. When cooking I would recommend an oil or fat, that is low in PUFAs. Saturated fats are most stable and great for cooking. Try coconut oil, ghee or other animal fats. If you want to use an oil, try avocado oil or macadamia nut oil (only 10-12% PUFA). They are both mild in flavor.Olive oil can also be low in PUFAs, but it depends on the oil… there is a wide range and sometimes oo is 21% PUFAs. Plus, like I said in the post, the polyphenols start degrading too, and you might want to use oo in cold foods, so you can benefit. BTW sesame seed oil is very high in PUFAs (~42%) so also definitely not recommended for cooking. The higher the heat in the cooking the more I tend to use saturated fats.

      Hope that helped!

  28. Candice says:

    This website is awesome! I finally found a site that actually explains why not to/to do certain things! I love it! I’ve heard not to cook with Olive Oil, but never knew why. Thanks for taking the time to explain everything. Now I understand why cooking is like doing a chemistry experiment! So cool!

  29. Ellesarath says:

    Nice list, wanted to know if I should cut my veggies for a big dinner party I am having a few hours ahead of time to save some trouble later. I will now wait until about half an hour before, thus only 20 minutes to early with the 10 min waiting period :) Great to see someone taking a scientific approach to healthy food that goes beyond the *?&%# we get to read in magazines and the like!

    • Hi Ellesarath,

      Honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it for a dinner party… sometimes we just have to make our lives easier. ;) But I hope your guests appreciated that you served them some extra nutrients! Thanks for your compliment! Glad you like the scientific approach.

  30. Mark says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your article. I also love how attentive you are with your readers and their comments. I tried to see if you have any new posts and am hoping your so busy that blogging just isn’t on the schedule anymore or perhaps you moved your activity to a new site. Wishing you well and prosperity. May God bless you and yours!

    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your comment! Glad you enjoyed the article. Maybe one day I will add more posts. I do have a bunch of half finished once I should probably complete… :) I am indeed busy with other projects. Maybe something I will share on this site one day.

      Thanks again!

  31. […] Ten Common Healthy Cooking Mistakes :: Health Foodie […]

  32. Stephen says:

    Wow – an Internet comments section that’s not filled with bad grammar, foul language, and insults–what a pleasant surprise! And of course, thanks for the useful tips!

  33. Luis says:

    Previously I was able to readPreviously I was able to read the whole post in Google Reader.Now there is just a short fragment (first two lines). Kind of aoyinnng but not critical

  34. pat says:

    Hi there, accidently found this website, I am so amazed at what I’ve learned here, I can’t believe I’m still alive since I have broken all the rules here, I thought we were doing great with eating healthy, but your article has really opened up our eyes. Here we thought we were doing everything right that is until my husband who does not smoke and exercises regularly, had a heart attack, just did not make sense!! Because of this I’ve just now started doing some serious research on what we eat mainly, also the preparation of our food, it’s amazing how much we are lied to about food, around every corner you have to be your own detective and research everything instead of taking their word for it!! thank you soo much for this and I hope you still have your blog, would really like to try some of your recipes, and learn more!! thanks Pat

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