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Pantry Raid!

Which common ingredients add major calories to your meals?

Home-cooked meals are usually lower in fat and calories than premade fare, and way healthier than fast food. But it's all too easy for even the most diligent home chef to unknowingly add unwanted carbs and fat to their masterpiece. Here are four common mishaps, according to Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

DROWNING FOOD IN OIL
Yes, it's heart healthy, but also high in calories. Sautéed vegetables only need to be misted with oil—not swimming in it. Buy an empty spray bottle and fill it with olive oil. Then spray your food and the pan lightly before cooking.

USING REAL SUGAR
Switch to artificial sweeteners; some of them can even be used for baking. If you can't stand the aftertaste, try combining two different sweeteners—this blending helps impart more sweetness and less artificial taste, says Stokes.

COOKING TOO MUCH MEAT
No substitute can emulate the taste of a steak, but if you're making a meal like chili or tacos, swap some of the ground beef for less fatty soy crumbles or tofu, suggests Stokes. Not a fan of soy? Try mixing ground beef with black beans, diced cherries, or any other fresh vegetable or fruit.

USING FULL-FAT CHEESE
Not even our expert would touch the fat-free stuff, but Stokes does recommend switching to a reduced-fat version. "It adds flavor, melts well, and retains the normal properties of cheese," he says. Cabot light cheddar, for one, tastes almost identical to the full-fat stuff.

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