I’m a Nutritionist. Here’s Why I Ditched Cooking Oils & What I Use Instead.

by | Updated: November 1st, 2018

If you sauté, bake or roast on a regular basis, the concept of cooking oil-free may seem difficult at first. After all, many recipes that call for these cooking methods typically start with heating a tablespoon or two of oil. Not much of a cook? Then perhaps you enjoy oil-based dressings and sauces or love to drizzle oil onto pasta and other heartier recipes.

Whatever the case, cooking without oil can provide many health benefits that have been well-studied. Plus, it’s much easier to do than you might think!

Person Sauteing Veggies in Frying Pan Without Oil | Vitacost.com/Blog

Benefits of eating and cooking oil-free

A low-fat, plant-based, oil-free diet has been shown to provide optimal heart and weight benefits, while animal products and high-fat foods, such as oil, have been shown to cause negative effects.

Consuming whole foods, such as almonds, walnuts and avocados, is a nutrient-dense way to include all necessary healthy fats into your diet. Oils, on the other hand, are made from plants that have been stripped of all fiber, vitamins, minerals, natural protein and other important nutritional components. Dense in calories, oil provides zero nutrients aside from fat.

On average, cooking oils contains 120 calories per tablespoon and roughly 13-14 grams of fat depending on the oil. Plus, many of these oils can go rancid quite quickly due to incorrect storage.

Even olive oil has been shown to have negative effects on heart health while whole sources of healthy fats, such as walnuts, have been shown to provide benefits.

Remember, much like refined sugar or refined flour, oil is hard to make naturally in the kitchen (plus, as we know, none of these options are healthy). But we also know that oil is a very easy and convenient ingredient to cook with. Instead, try these five tips and you’ll see just how simple and delicious your oil-free meals can be!

1. How to sauté and roast vegetables without oil

Use a few tablespoons of vegetable broth when you sauté or roast veggies. Not only does this ingredient add flavor, but it also provides necessary moisture. If you don’t have broth on hand, simply use a few tablespoons of water to when sautéing veggies to retain natural textures and flavor.

2. Make oil-free salad dressings

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the most nutrient-dense form of fats into your diet is to make everyday foods with whole-food-based ingredients. For salad dressings, use a food processor to puree your favorite veggies and combine it with either balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Craving a lighter option? Squeeze in lemon juice and a dash of black pepper (you can do this at restaurants, too!).

3. Choose oil-free toppings to flavor your plate (even when dining out!)

Searching for an oil-free menu item at a restaurant? No problem! Since restaurants tend to add oil to most dishes—especially dressings and house-made sauces—simply ask for a side of guacamole, hummus, salsa or balsamic vinegar instead of the questionable dressing or sauce.

4. Opt for whole foods

As mentioned, oils are refined foods derived from whole food fat sources. Instead of reaching for that bottle of oil (any oil), go straight to the source! For example, choose avocados over avocado oil. You can also swap olive oil for whole olives and coconut oil for coconut butter, which is puréed whole coconut meat; or simple choose shredded coconut.

Raw nuts and seeds are also excellent sources of whole plant fats and make a great addition to any eating plan. An ounce of almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed meal or pecans contains natural proteins, whole sources of omega-3 fats, fiber and multiple vitamins and minerals critical to our health; oil has none of these beneficial nutrients.

5. Select healthy swaps for oil when baking

Baking with healthy options such as fruit purée or natural nut butter is a common tip you might be familiar with when it comes to cooking oil-free.

Natural peanut, cashew or almond butter can all be used in baking in 1:1 ratio instead of oil, or you can use applesauce or prune purée instead in recipes to increase moisture, flavor and natural sweetness (this may help you to reduce the use of sweeteners, too!).

What to do with your leftover cooking oils

If you’re ready to start using the aforementioned swaps for cooking oils, you may be wondering what to do with the opened bottles in your pantry. We’ve got great news!

Outside of the kitchen, oils make wonderful natural moisturizers for your skin and hair. You can also use coconut oil as shaving cream, eye makeup remover or as a natural deodorant (just combine with baking soda!).