Why (and How) I've Mostly Stopped Cooking With Oil

Switching to a plant based diet means you still get to keep most oils you've already been cooking with. Vegetable, peanut, canola, extra virgin olive - all vegan and plant based. So when I switched to eating plant based I continued cooking with them. But after some research I personally decided to cut as much oil out of my diet as possible. My reason was that I was trying to focus on consuming a low fat, plant based diet. While training for the triathlon last year I wanted to be lean and mean and I wanted everything I ate to help me, not hinder me. I'm not the fastest and training for the triathlon was HARD, so I tried to find every single possible way to help increase my endurance, and cutting out oil was one of the things that personally helped me. Here's how and more of why I did it (and haven't gone back since).

Why

Oil is just fat. No matter what kind you have, its basically just fat. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal Program at The Cleveland Clinic, posts this on his website about oil:

The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Both the mono unsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind.

I love these two talks by Dr. Michael Klapper, physician, consultant, and educator, and Dr. Esselstyn.  They're very clear about why cutting oil from your diet can be very beneficial.

There are lots of sources out there that say oils are good for you. I'm not debating them, I'm just saying that for ME, cutting out most of the oil from my diet has been very beneficial in my athletic performance and in maintaining a healthy weight. And here's how I did it.

How

Amazingly, it was actually pretty easy to cut most oil out of my diet. Yes, I still use Vegenaise, which contains safflower oil, flax seed oil, and olive oil, and I still use Earth Balance Original Spread, which contains a natural oil blend of palm fruit, canola, soy bean, flax and olive oils, and sometimes I use Daiya Cheese, which contains safflower and coconut oil, but I use these sparingly. Maybe once a week in one meal. I also still eat foods with oil when I'm out to eat at a restaurant. Its hard to completely avoid, so I just give myself a break and do what I can in my own kitchen. The main changes are that I've stopped sautéing everything in extra virgin olive oil, I stopped baking with vegetable oil, I no longer spray oil on baking sheets, and I don't fry any foods. Instead, here's what I do:

Sauté In Water or Vegetable Broth

Its cheaper than buying oils and I honestly cannot taste ANY difference. Its also much healthier. I'm cutting out 119 calories and a whopping 14 grams of fat (including 1.9 gram of saturated fat) per tablespoon.

Bake On Silicon Baking Mats

I LOVE these mats! They keep your pans from getting destroyed with stuck on food, I can easily bake foods like sweet potatoes without them sticking to the pan, and they're super easy to clean. Get these and you WON'T be disappointed. These mats have also completely replaced any oiling of a pan that I used to do. 

Use Applesauce Instead Of Oil When Baking

I've actually been using this trick for years. Replace the oil in your baking recipes with the equivalent amount of applesauce. There are about 480 calories in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and about 54 grams of fat. Replace that with applesauce and you've got only 41.5 calories and a scant 0.1 grams of fat. 

Salad Dressings

Salad dressings can be tricky. I've been struggling with how to replace the oil in dressings and still getting the same effect. I've come up with a couple of alternative recipes:

Peanut Dressing

Yes, peanut butter has oil in it, but its naturally occurring, its not processed out.

Ingredients

2 tbsp peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's Crunchy Unsalted Peanut Butter)

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

4 tbsp pineapple juice

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

1 tbsp green onions, finely chopped

Combine

In a bowl, add 2 heaping kitchen tablespoons of peanut butter (not the measuring spoon - for some reason I don’t think they are the same size as kitchen tablespoons).

Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, pineapple juice and mix thoroughly.


Ingredients

2 ripe avocados

2 limes

1 cup water

Combine

In your Vitamix, food processor, or blender, combine two ripe avocados, the juice of two limes (about 1/2 cup of juice), and 1 cup of water and blend until smooth.


Ingredients

4 tsp lemon juice

4 tsp tahini

4 tsp water

Combine

It can't get any easier. Combine the lemons, tahini, and water in a container with a lid and give it a good shake. DONE!


Ingredients

3 tbsp hummus (some hummus contains oil, so try and find ones that don't, or you can make your own using my recipe here.)

2 lemons, juiced

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp cilantro or parsley, chopped

Combine

In a bowl or container with a lid, combine all the dressing ingredients together and mix vigorously until the hummus has dissolved. Pour over the salad and enjoy!

Grated Beet Salad with Lemon Hummus Dressing

Ingredients

2 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

4 tsp honey

Combine

In a bowl, combine two tbsp of whole grain dijon mustard, two tbsp of white balsamic vinegar, and four tsps of honey and mix together.


Store Brands

Finding salad dressing in a store without oil in it is hard, but can be done. Annie's makes a Fat Free Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette that doesn't have any oil. You do have to hunt and peck around.

I've also become a fan of using salsa as a salad dressing (on some salads of course). And lately, I've also found that a squeeze of lemon or lime juice can do the trick, or a simple drizzle of balsamic or red wine vinegar on its own. 

Grilling

My next no-oil roadblock was grilling. How was I going to grill vegetables without first tossing them in oil? No problem - just DON'T. I've grilled veggies dry and they've come out just as good as when I used oil. I've tossed them in JUST lemon juice for a great flavor. I've marinated them in oil free sauces, like barbecue, soy sauce, and vegetarian hoisin, and they've tasted just as delicious. If you're a little worried about moisture, toss them in a little cold vegetable broth and lemon juice. Delicious and I've had no need for oil.

If you're curious about how cutting out oils from your diet affects your health, just try it for a week and see how you feel. All I did was try it for a week and its been over a year now and I've been very happy with the change. Some of my older recipes contain oil, I'll be updating those soon, but feel free to replace the oil with any of the ways I've listed above.