5 Common Cooking Mistakes That Make Vegetables Less Healthy

The way you prepare your vegetables may be diminishing their nutritional value. Here are cooking methods to avoid.

Air-Fried Roasted Sweet Peppers and Onions
Photo: Buckwheat Queen

While any veggies are better than no veggies, there certainly are better ways to prepare them so they retain the most nutrients and better support an overall healthy diet. In fact, there are some preparations that are actually bad for you, adding unwanted fats, calories, sodium, and sugars to your diet.

These are common mistakes you might be making when preparing your vegetables along with healthier choices.

1. Boiling and Steaming Vegetables

"Boiling veggies in water can cause loss of some water soluble nutrients such as vitamin C and B vitamins like thiamin, niacin, and folate," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring YOU, and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook . Steaming vegetables may also deplete nutrients; and, when overcooked, the veggies can come out bland tasting. To compensate for bland veggies, some cooks add sweet or salty sauces and dressings.

The Better Method: Harris-Pincus suggests roasting to retain more of those nutrients or sautéing with spices and alliums, like garlic and ginger, for flavor.

2. Breading and Frying Vegetables

Everything tastes good fried. But breading and frying veggies in lots of oil can obliterate some of the healthy antioxidants in vegetables as well as the unsaturated fatty acids found in the oils (like olive or avocado oil).

The Better Method: "Air frying may help retain more of these vitamins and compounds while avoiding all of the extra calories," says Harris-Pincus. Using less oil, you're able to save on calories and fat without compromising on flavor and crispy texture. Explore our collection of Air Fryer Side Dish Recipes.

Air-Fried Ratatouille, Italian-Style
Photo by Buckwheat Queen.

3. Using Excess Sauces and Marinades

Resist the urge to let your veggies swim in sauces and marinades. Take note of how much calorie- and fat-laden sauce you're using — start with a little and add more to taste as needed.

"Popular veggie dishes like teriyaki or stir-fries can contain a lot of sodium, more than is recommended per day by the dietary guidelines, so when cooking at home, try to use reduced sodium versions of soy sauce or other condiments," recommends Harris-Pincus.

4. Dousing Veggies in Salad Dressings

A seemingly healthy meal choice can quickly turn into a calorie bomb when smothered in dressings, especially with high-fat, high-calorie creamy dressings like Caesar or Blue Cheese. Harris-Pincus recommends vinaigrettes. "They are preferable to creamy dressings because they spread further and are made with healthy oils," she says. Check out our collection of Vinaigrette Dressing Recipes.

vinaigrette pouring into spoon

But keep some fat in! "No need to go for fat-free dressings, you can order the real thing on the side and use your fork to dip in before taking a bite of the salad — you'll use way less and still have dressing in each bite," she says.

Some fat can actually improve your health and increase the amount of antioxidants you absorb too! Maximize your vegetables with a good dose of healthy fat in dressings or elsewhere. "Research shows that including avocado in your salad helps to absorb more carotenoids like beta carotene," she explains.

5. Using Too Much Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is super popular for cooking right now and it has a reputation for being good for you. But take note, Harris-Pincus says the health halo is not entirely warranted. "Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat and can raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol, increasing the total. So try to cook with oils that are healthier for your heart such as olive, canola, avocado, or peanut oils," she says.

Coconut oil is a good fit for Thai dishes or baking, but don't make it your go to staple at home for stir-fry meals, cooking veggies, and other sides and salads — choose olive oil or avocado oil, both of which contain healthier fats for your heart.

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