How to Cook Without Oil

When you hear about what to eat (and not eat) for weight loss, you generally encounter talk about bread, fried foods, and sugary desserts. While you should certainly eat these in moderation, there’s one ingredient that shows up in almost all your meals that isn’t doing you any favors in terms of shedding a few pounds: oil.

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and health and fitness expert, told POPSUGAR, “Oils are a processed food. Basically, the fat is stripped out of the intact food (be it an olive, coconut, or avocado), leaving behind the fiber and many other nutrients.”

We know already that processed foods are something that should be avoided in the majority of our diet, since they have little to no nutritional value and can cause weight gain. Couple that with the fact that oil is the most calorically dense food out there — Hever said, “It contains 120 calories per tablespoon, almost 2,000 calories per cup!” — and you can’t deny the fact that it’s probably a good idea to cut back on oil if you’re trying to lose weight.

As of a few months ago, I no longer cook or bake with any oil at home, and I can definitely see a difference in my waistline. You might be wondering how on earth I cook without it? It’s certainly a question that kept me up at night when I first gave it up. Here are some tips I wish I’d known when I first started on my oil-free ride.

Add a Little Water, Broth, or Wine to the Pan

You’ll run into some moments when your food sticks to your pan and you feel frustrated enough to throw your spatula against the wall. Don’t worry, I’ve been there (as in, I’ve actually thrown my spatula against the wall, and it wasn’t pretty), and I’m here to assure you that there’s a remedy.

Rather than caving in and adding a lug of oil, just add a couple tablespoons of liquid to the pan (kind of like deglazing a pan). That will ensure that the food doesn’t stick. You can use any kind of liquid, whether it’s water, vegetable broth, or even wine. Choose whatever you think will go best with the kind of meal you’re making.

Line Your Sheet Pan With Parchment Paper

The most common question I get when I tell people I cook without oil — other than “WTF is wrong with you?” — is how I roast vegetables in the oven without adding olive or coconut oil. You’d be surprised at how crispy and tasty veggies come out when you don’t put anything but seasoning on them. I’ve had friends over for dinner who can’t tell that I roasted their favorite veggies without oil — all they knew was that dinner tasted great.

Here’s an insider tip: line your sheet pan with parchment paper so the veggies don’t stick to the bottom. That will save you a whole lot of hassle when it comes to the cleanup.

Substitute With Fruit Puree in Your Baked Goods

Many baking recipes call for oil, but you don’t have to play by the rules. Instead of using those tablespoons of vegetable oil, consider substituting any of the following: applesauce, pureed dates, avocados, or mashed bananas. You can even make yourself a flax seed “egg” by mixing one tablespoon flax seed and three tablespoons water. This will help you consume fewer calories in the long run, as well as add some extra nutrition to your treats.

Make a Breading For Your Food

This one goes out to all the fried-food-lovers out there. Instead of deep frying your favorite potatoes in a pool of oil, make yourself a nifty breading that you can use to coat just about anything.

Dip vegetables into unsweetened almond milk mixed with a little cornstarch. Then coat them with some bread crumbs or cornmeal. For an even crispier outcome, use nonstick or silicone ovenware. Or just line your pan with parchment paper and bake it at a high temperature until it reaches the crispy texture you’re looking for.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Cera Hensley

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