When it comes to weight gain — or even a lack of weight loss — look no further than your kitchen for culprits.
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Bad habits you develop in your kitchen add up. But it’s never too late to change your habits or establish new ones. Start by looking at these six, all of which can lead to weight gain.
1. Eyeballing ingredients when cooking or baking
Adding a “splash” of olive oil or a “pinch” of sugar may work well on cooking shows, but it can contribute to excess calories in your dinner menu. For example, your splash of olive oil might seem close enough to the tablespoon your recipe called for, but overdoing it could add 100 calories or more. Use measuring cups and spoons when preparing your meals. Your taste buds won’t know the difference.
2. Going heavy on the grease
Have you ever counted the seconds you spend with your finger on the cooking spray nozzle? Chances are it’s more than one-fourth of a second, the rough serving size of most sprays. Whether you use spray or another method, overdoing it will add unnecessary calories. Try lining baking sheets with aluminum foil and greasing them as lightly as possible. Better yet, explore non-stick cookware and give up the extra calories altogether.
3. Eating straight from the package
Eating straight from a bag of potato chips or a pasta salad container rarely ends well — in part because it’s hard to know when to end. Munching out of the package tends to lead to greater intake, especially when those packages are big. This bad kitchen habit distorts your perception of how much you’re eating at once. Try portioning snacks and leftovers in reasonably sized containers instead.
4. Leaving extra food on the stove during dinner
It’s a common routine: You cook, then you sit down to eat and leave what’s not on your plate on the stove. Unfortunately, this routine makes it that much easier to go back for seconds — extra portions you don’t necessarily need. Try to establish a new habit: Before sitting down for dinner, transfer leftovers from pots and pans to storage containers and place them in the refrigerator.
5. Hiding fruits and vegetables in the produce drawer
That’s what a produce drawer is for, right? However, out of sight can mean out of mind. Try keeping fruits and veggies in plain sight. Store them at the top of the refrigerator, or even in a fruit bowl on the counter when appropriate. Research shows you are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables when they are easily accessible and visible in the kitchen.
6. Filling the “treat bowl” with easy eats
Many households feature a serving dish full of candy, nuts or other snacks. This bowl offers instant gratification and a whole lot of unnecessary calories. If you want to get serious about weight loss, ditch the dish. But if you can’t kick this tradition, fill the bowl with snacks that are more difficult to eat in excess. For example, in one study, people consumed 41 percent fewer pistachios when they were served in the shell rather than pre-shelled.
No habit is too hard to break if you’re willing to try something new. And a few small adjustments to your routine can go a long way toward a healthier weight.
Brigid Titgemeier, nutrition assistant at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, contributed to this article.