Do you use a pourer to toss cooking oil into your pan? Does your table have a salt shaker? And does your tea tray feature a sugar dispenser?
This isn’t something we think about often, but perhaps most of us do eyeball our cooking ingredients to add a dash, spoonful, handful or “good glug” of them to our food.
Here is why it may be a good idea to rethink this habit: Simply eyeballing everyday cooking ingredients can cause overconsumption, especially if you have been advised to consume these ingredients in moderation. The top three typically poured using our eyes and instinct are cooking oil, salt and sugar. Let’s examine how much of each you need and what happens when you overpour them in your food:
Cooking oil: The American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of vegetable oil per day, with each serving being no more than 1 teaspoon. But if you pour oil into your food like this:
then it is easy to pour out twice or even thrice the recommended quantity. Even cooking oils low in harmful saturated fats need to be consumed with caution, because they contain 120 calories per tablespoon. More than that and they can pose several health risks, including rise in bad cholesterol, blood pressure and weight gain.
It is also common to eyeball sugar and salt when pouring them onto our food:
The result: each grain adds up, and can cause grave damage in the long run.
Salt: The American Heart Association warns that the average American consumes way more salt than the heart can handle. Most people consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day — more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association. While salt hides in dozens of foods, ranging from burgers and sandwiches to cookies and condiments, one common mistake we tend to make at home is to pour it from a shaker or letting our eyes decide the amount. A high-sodium diet can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden on your heart. Too much sodium also increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
Sugar: According to data from the U.S. in 2008, people are consuming over 60 pounds (28 kg) of added sugar per year. Excess sugar consumption has been associated with obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, tooth decay and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The American Heart Association states that, “A prudent upper limit of intake is half of the discretionary calorie allowance, which for most American women is no more than 6 teaspoons per day and for most American men is no more than 9 teaspoons per day from added sugar.” While this may sound like a generous allowance, the truth is not so sweet—just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories, and zero nutrition. Add to that the habitual pouring of sugar from a dispenser, and we are treading into a danger zone.
Simple ways to avoid over-consumption of these foods:
- Always use a measuring spoon for sugar.
- Avoid sugar-bombs such as frozen blueberry yogurt, which contains a whopping 23 teaspoons of sugar per 94 grams. Instead, munch on blueberries and almonds to avoid added sugar, enjoy natural flavors and intake vital nutrients.
- Limit the use of the salt shaker. If possible, take it off your dining table.
- Try low-sodium varieties of soups and sandwiches.
- Avoid the use of store-bought condiments such as pickles and sauces—they can contain excessive amounts of sodium.
- Measure out your cooking oil precisely, or use a cooking spray.
- Better still, try steaming and baking foods instead of frying them.
- Read health studies and reliable nutrition advice to remain aware of the need for moderation and to help you monitor the amount you are consuming.