This article originally appeared on Health
Cooking at home seems like a far healthier option than dining out, right? Maybe not. A recent study found that the more time middle-aged women spent cooking at home, the more likely they were to suffer from metabolic syndrome. The reason for the finding may be that the study didn’t identify exactly what the women were cooking, so there was no way to measure the healthfulness of their homemade meals.
1. Nibbling while cookingMany of my clients start keeping food diaries soon after our first consultation, and some are shocked to discover just how much they eat while prepping and cooking. One client regularly downed a glass of wine (or two) while popping cheese cubes, nuts, or crackers as she prepped. That mindless munching resulted in taking in up to 300-400 extra calories, which is enough to keep her at least two sizes larger than her weight goal.
2. Carb overload
Many health-conscious people I talk to have given up white bread and pasta in favor of healthy starches, like quinoa, wild rice, and lentils. The swap is fantastic for your health, but eating excess portions of these superfoods can still prevent weight loss, or lead to weight gain. I don’t advocate ditching carbs altogether, but the amount you eat should be in proportion to your body’s energy needs in the hours after a meal. If you’ll mostly be sitting in the evening, your portion of anything starchy should be somewhere between a half cup to a cup (more if you’re younger, taller, and more physically active; less if you’re older, shorter, and exercise less). I know that seems tiny, but when combined with a generous portion of veggies (think two cups, or the size of two tennis balls) along with lean protein and a bit of healthy fat, it’s completely doable.
3. Cheese-ing outI recently challenged a client to go 30 days without eating cheese, because I knew it would be a major key to her success. She, like many other people I counsel, was using far too much cheese in home-cooked meals, and as a result, she was racking up hundreds of surplus calories. Ounce for ounce, cheddar packs four times the calories and nine times the fat of skinless chicken breast. Many of my clients think of it as a protein source, but an ounce of feta contains more fat than protein (6 grams versus 4). The fix: If you don’t want to give up cheese completely, think of it as a condiment, and use it sparingly.
4. Indulging in dessert too often
Over the years, many clients have told me that they just need a little something sweet after dinner. But one cookie can easily turn into three, and one serving of ice cream can easily become the whole pint. And once an after-dinner dessert pattern forms it can be challenging to break.