6 Cooking Mistakes That Make You Fat #543 01/06/2014

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6 Cooking Mistakes That Make You Fat

By Jessica Girdwain

Eating in is one of the best ways to get (and stay) slim. Cooking at home allows you to control the calories and fat, and use wholesome ingredients in your meals—not something you can easily do when you go out to a restaurant. But there may be small mistakes you're making when it comes to whipping up a homemade meal or snack that can lead to weight gain, from pouring on the olive oil to baking "low-fat" cookies.

Woman Getting ready to Cook while viewing Cook Book

Cooking Mistake #1: You're too generous with the olive oil

No doubt olive oil is a healthy fat—it's rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. In addition, the aroma of olive oil may even improve satiety, prompting you to eat less at later meals, finds a recent German study1. But that doesn't mean you can pour it on with abandon. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, and if you're eyeballing how much you add to a pan, it's easy to pour twice that—and therefore, twice the calories. Washington, D.C.–based personal chef and registered dietitian Jessica Swift, MS, suggests using just enough oil to coat the pan's cooking surface, then using a paper towel to wipe off any excess oil before adding other ingredients. In addition, try sautéing veggies in low-sodium chicken or veggie stock or white wine.

Cooking Mistake #2: You forget to spice things up

Woman Seasoning her CookingRethink how you add flavor to foods. Instead of covering steamed broccoli in butter, sauces, or cheese, reach for your spice rack. One new study from the University of Colorado found that when people added herbs and spices to reduced-fat foods, they rated those foods as tasty as their full-fat versions.2 Swift likes rubbing fish with dill, paprika, and garlic and topping with a squeeze of lemon. Also try covering chicken breasts with rosemary, garlic, lemon or orange slices, and sage before baking it in the oven.

Cooking Mistake #3: You bake meat in the oven

Baking chicken in the oven can definitely help save calories over pan-frying or sautéing, but here's what you're probably missing: you should elevate the meat and cook it on a rack. This allows the fat to drain away, Swift says. Do the same with veggies. Toss them with oil, salt, and pepper, then roast on a rack placed atop a baking sheet. When done, they won't be swimming in gobs of oil, but you'll still enjoy the same delicious flavor.

Cooking Mistake #4: You're "cleaning up" baked goods

You know the tricks to "healthify" treats like cookies, muffins, and brownies: use puréed fruit instead of refined sugar, and add black bean purée to brownies. Try whole-grain flour in your muffins. And while it's a good idea to make an effort to add as much nutrition as possible to treats, it makes it easier to justify a splurge. In fact, people eat larger portions if food is marked "healthy," shows research in the International Journal of Obesity.3 So you may snack on four cookies instead of two because your new recipe contains half the fat—but this defeats the entire purpose.

Cooking Mistake #5: You're, well, cooking everything

Because research shows that adults are eating far too few fruits and vegetables, it's a good idea to try to get more into your diet, whether steamed, roasted, or grilled—whatever way you love them the most. But don't forget to eat them raw, too. According to a 2011 study published in the journal PNAS, the process of cooking produce makes more calories available to the body.4 That means your body burns more calories by simply digesting raw foods, which could translate into weight loss. (Sure, it's a minimal amount, but over time this can add up.) So don't forget to include big salads; crudités, like sliced cukes and red peppers, dipped in salsa or guac; or gazpacho in your meal rotation.

Cooking Mistake #6: You think pasta was made for noodles

Couple Cooking and Tasting FoodIf you've already switched from white pasta to whole wheat versions, then give yourself a pat on the back. Pasta made with 100% whole wheat flour digests slower than refined versions, so you stay fuller for longer. But there's life beyond wheat noodles, and it saves mega-calories and dials up the nutrition: veggies masquerading as noodles. Think spaghetti squash, zucchini and squash ribbons, and sliced asparagus. Want proof? One cup of spaghetti squash contains 42 calories compared with one cup of pasta at 200 calories. Top veggie "noodles" with a tomato sauce and turkey meatballs and you've got a lower-carb and lower-calorie (but still satisfying) meal. One tip: when making spaghetti squash, don't salt it before cooking, which adds about 16% of your daily value of bloat-inducing sodium. The sauce you put on top will contain enough salt to flavor the dish.

  1. Olive Oil Makes You Feel Full
  2. Spicing Up Food Can Make Up For Missing Fat
  3. Perceived "Healthiness" of Foods Can Influence Consumer's Estimations of Energy Density and Appropriate Portion Size.
  4. Energetic Consequences of Thermal and Nonthermal Food Processing

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Beat the Second-Week Slump

By Kara Wahlgren

Last week, you were feeling gung ho and ready to tackle your weight-loss goals head-on. This week? Not so much. You're tired, you're hungry, and you're aching in places you didn't even know existed. But before you lose all motivation, take heart—the second week is supposed to suck. "In week two, your body is generally in a state of severe breakdown," says Steve Edwards, Vice President of Results and Fitness Advisor for Beachbody®. After all, you're eating less, going hard, and your body needs some time to adapt to your new lifestyle. Here are a few slump-proof strategies for pushing through Week 2.

Woman Thinking

Don't panic if you plateau

You've busted your butt all week and been downright virtuous about your diet. So when you hop on the scale, you're ready to see the results of your hard work. But here's the rub: During Week 2, it's not unusual to get stuck or even gain a pound or two. "As your body adjusts to exercise, cortisol—a performance-enhancing stress hormone—is released," says Edwards. "Part of cortisol's function is to promote water retention as a defense mechanism for survival. This causes you to feel puffy and gain some weight."

So, let's recap. You're achy, you're starving, and the number on the scale is now moving in the wrong direction. It's no wonder you feel discouraged and are tempted to bail altogether. But hang in there, because your body will eventually get the memo. "It's a necessary part of the process," says Edwards. "Sometime between Weeks 3 and 6, once you adapt to your exercise program, you stop producing cortisol and flush the excess water, which leads to you feeling and looking fitter, and losing some weight."

Track progress, not just weight loss

Woman Debating if She should eat the AppleWhile there's plenty of science behind your plateau, that doesn't make it any less frustrating. So when the number on the scale isn't budging, how can you tell if you're still on the right track? Start recording your healthy habits—whether that means keeping a workout log or posting Instagram® shots of your meals—so you can see all the changes you've made. "Track the behavior, not the outcome," says Joshua Klapow, PhD, Chief Behavioral Scientist for the health incentive company ChipRewards and author of Living SMART: 5 Essential Skills to Change your Health Habits Forever. "Track the food you eat, the steps you take, and the calories you burn, and make those your markers of success." Seeing these changes can give you just enough motivation to power through this week's plateau, and Klapow says that's all that matters: "Think of motivation like a tank of gas. The tank doesn't need to be full to move, but you can't run on empty."

Focus on the process

Sure, your biggest motivation might be squeezing into smaller jeans. But this week, it can help to focus on all the touchy-feely stuff instead. "Reframe the way you think about working out so it becomes your escape, your path to wellness, something you do for you," says Kim Chronister, PsyD, a health psychologist and author of The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation. "Our thoughts can powerfully affect our ability to tackle a new weight-loss routine." If you're too focused on the scale, a second-week plateau may feel like a huge failure; if you focus on the "me time" you get while working out, you'll achieve that no matter what.

If that doesn't help, just acknowledge that this week won't be your favorite, and keep on trucking. "Belief in the process helps at this stage," says Edwards. "You cannot make a total body composition change without suffering through a period where all of your goals seem like they are going backwards." He compares it to scaling a mountain or running an Ironman—miserable while you're in the thick of it, but insanely rewarding once you're done. So hang in there, because it'll be next week soon enough.

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How to Boost Your Metabolism

By Zack Zeigler

Which do you want first—the good news or the bad news? The bad news? You got it, glass-is-half-empty exerciser. Here it is: There is no magical way to speed up your metabolism. So all the mystical pills and potions that promise to ignite a lasting metabolic torch in your body won't pay off as advertised.

Woman about to bite a Chili Pepper

"Some people will say this food or that food speeds metabolism, or 'I saw this pill on Dr. Oz!' but that just won't happen," says Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM, author of The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great. "But it's hard to quantify what speeds up metabolism when it comes to food because you're not eating that food by itself."

And while there are foods that have been shown to provide a metabolic jolt—like capsaicin in chili peppers and fiber-rich foods like brown rice and oatmeal—they only supply a small change and don't greatly impact weight loss individually.

Another common cop-out is to blame aging, as if your inability to pop and lock on the dance floor somehow correlates to your body's inability to efficiently burn calories.

"When you talk about metabolism slowing down as you age you're also talking about bone density, lean muscle mass, and voluntary activity slowing down," Dr. Stoler explains. "Those things change over time and with age. So it's not just 'I'm old!' and there's no accountability." Mr. P90X®, Tony Horton, is 55-years-old, so think about that the next time you use that excuse. If you're feeling creaky, the more you move, the better you'll feel.

Remember when we said there was good news? Here it is: There are things you can do to increase your metabolism. And the even, uh, gooder news—the things that can help you boost your metabolism aren't all that difficult to implement into your daily routine.

Use Resistance Training

Woman Working Out with WeightsA long-distance run burns plenty of calories and can give you an edge on Sir Bitey when that inevitable zombie apocalypse occurs and it's time to flee for your life. But, you'll want to add resistance training to your workout, too.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Translation Medicine found that, compared to a traditional resistance training workout, using high-intensity interval resistance training (this is when you train with heavy weights for a short duration of time) increased their resting metabolic rate in the 24 hours following the workout.1

"People who only do cardio are training their muscles for endurance and burning calories, but they're not building muscle mass," Dr. Stoler says. "In terms of increasing your resting metabolic rate, you need more resistance, weight-bearing exercise."

Muscle burns more calories than fat, so putting on more muscle equates to a higher resting metabolic rate.

Keep in mind that you don't need to become an Olympic power lifter. Many cardio-based workouts, including INSANITY® or anything plyometric, contain a resistance aspect to them. Still, it's a good idea to get some good old-fashioned weight work into your program every now and then.

Eat, Eat, Eat

Fasting is the wrong way to go about jump-starting your metabolism. In fact, leaving your tank on empty for too many hours has an adverse effect since your body needs food to operate. According to Dr. Stoler, eating small, healthy meals more often revs up your metabolism by keeping your digestive system working.

"Having a healthy diet when you're eating more often keeps the furnace going without letting your energy levels deplete," she says. "It's like your furnace; it's better to run it at a steady rate instead of turning it off and then coming home and cranking it up."

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

The later you stay up, the worse your diet gets. No, we're not stalking you; a two-week sleep study from the University of Pennsylvania found that night owls tended to feast on fattier foods, with men gaining more weight than women, and black people gaining more weight than white people.2 (Wait, when did science become so discriminatory?)

A smaller 2011 study revealed why sleep and weight gain might be connected. Researchers found that when you're sleep deprived your prefrontal cortex—the portion of your brain responsible for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions—is also sluggish. This impedes your willpower to resist fatty foods, which makes the gelatinous blob of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that's disguised as dessert look far more appetizing than it would have had you hit the sack at a decent hour.

Drink More

Man Drinking Water after a RunWater, you lushes! Not only can dehydration trick you into thinking you're hungry and decrease your mental and physical abilities, studies have found that drinking as little as 16 ounces of water led to an increase in energy expenditure. You should be downing more water than that. How much, exactly? We're so glad you asked. Take your bodyweight and divide it in half, and then add the word "ounces" to the answer. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd aim for 75 ounces of agua per day.

  1. High Intensity Interval Resistance Training influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratios in non-dieting individuals
  2. Sleep Deprived People May Crave High Calorie Foods

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Recipe: Grilled Tilapia with Tomatoes and Kale

(Makes 1 serving)

 Grilled Tilapia with Tomatoes and Kale
Make flaky, delicious tilapia in minutes with this easy recipe and save the seasoning blend to use in other recipes for chicken, fish, and vegetables.

Total Time: 17 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 7 min.


  • 1 (4-oz.) raw tilapia fillet
  • ½ tsp. Italian Seasoning Blend (recipe below)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2½ cups chopped fresh kale
  • 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Season both sides of tilapia with Italian Seasoning; set aside.
  2. Heat large nonstick skillet, lightly coated with spray, over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and kale; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Place tilapia fillet on top of kale mixture; cook, covered, for 1 minute.
  5. Gently turn tilapia over. Top with tomatoes; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tilapia is cooked through and flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  6. Place kale, tilapia, and tomatoes on a serving plate; drizzle with oil

Tip: The Italian Seasoning Blend can be stored in an airtight container for use in the future.

Italian Seasoning Blend

  • 4 Tbsp. dried parsley, crushed
  • 4 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp. ground oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)

Calories Fat Saturated Fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbs Fiber Sugar Protein
279 8 g 2 g 57 mg 195 mg 27 g 6 g 6 g 31 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Body Beast® and P90X®/P90X2®/P90X3 Portion Information

P90X3 Portion Equivalents:
1 1/2 1 1

P90X/P90X2 Portions:
2 1 1/2

Body Beast Portions:
4 3 1

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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