4 Cooking Mistakes That Add Unintended Calories

Your recipe might not be so “light” if you’re making these flubs.

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If you’re struggling with your weight but don’t know why, it’s worthwhile to reassess your cooking habits. Even if you think you’re making a light salad or soup, excess calories can get thrown in—and add up—easier than you think.

Appropriate calorie intake is a balancing game. Your body needs adequate calories to run properly, and some people may need more (or less) than others depending on several factors, such as how active they are. Calories are fuel, and eating enough calories ensures you’re getting the right macro- and micronutrients to keep your body healthy and prevent deficiencies.

But too many calories could cause unwanted weight gain. Extra calories often happen in the areas you’re not thinking about, like your morning coffee with cream or your evening glass of wine.

In the kitchen, there are several habits that can throw in extra calories that cause a disparity between your imagined calorie count—and reality.

1. You “eyeball it.”

Take caution when guessing: High-calorie ingredients can add up big time if you're not using a measuring cup.

For example, each tablespoon of heavy cream contains 50 calories. Drizzling it freely into your tomato soup can result in hundreds of extra calories that you weren’t planning for.

2. You eat as you cook.

Yes, you should taste as you go—that’s just good cooking. However, while you’re waiting for the pasta to reach al dente, it’s easy to snack on a couple meatballs. Those calories still count, but most people still dish up a regular serving when it’s time to sit down at the dinner table.

3. You don’t consider your toppings.

You probably scrutinize the calories of your main dish, but you’re more likely to forget everything that goes on top. Sauces, seeds, nuts, avocado, croutons, and cheese can really add up.

Toppings are a great way to add flavor, texture, and valuable nutrients—but be sure to keep tabs on how much you’re adding. This is especially true for dishes like oatmeal and smoothie bowls.

4. You think your cooking oil “doesn’t count.”

A big side of broccoli is a great way to balance out your dinner plate, but don’t forget the oil you cooked it in. Cooking oil can be a positive component of a healthy diet, and fats help you absorb certain vitamins. However, keep in mind that each tablespoon has 120 calories, so include that in your calculations.

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