Sure, cooking at home can be a healthier alternative to eating out because you control what ingredients go into your dishes. But have you stopped to think about the nutrition profile of the recipes you're using?
Researchers from Simmons College in Boston took a look at 96 entree recipes from the six most popular food blogs according to BlogRank: Pinch My Salt, Chocolate and Zucchini, Simply Recipes, Smitten Kitchen, The Pioneer Woman and Busy at Home. They found that while calorie counts were acceptable for the examined recipes, they tended to be high in saturated fat and sodium and low in carbohydrates and fiber. This is in comparison with one-third of the Dietary Reference Intakes, which researchers noted is "similar to menu planning techniques used in the National School Lunch Program."
Vegetarian entree recipes -- which made up 38 percent of the recipes in the study -- tended to be lower in calories, saturated fat and sodium than meals that included meat, according to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study.
Interestingly, sodium levels tended to be higher in recipes posted from December to May, versus recipes posted from June to November, researchers noted.
"It is really surprising that these blogs may have more than 2 million visits per month," study researcher Elizabeth Schneider, MS, RD, said in a statement. "This large reach makes the food blog an important component for nutrition education."
But still, there's no overestimating the value of a home-cooked meal. A recent study in the journal Public Health Nutrition showed that cooking for at least five times a week is associated with a longer lifespan, compared with people who cook less frequently.
What are your favorite recipe blogs for nutritious meals? Share them in the comments!
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Grilled Chicken Breast
Perdue Grilled Chicken Breast, Plain This lean protein provides a lot of nutrients <em>and</em> a lot of volume per calorie, making it a great salad topper. 50 cals -- 1/2 cup 100 cals -- 1 cup 200 cals -- 2 cup
Eggland's Best Eggs Hard-boiled eggs are common in everything from Chef's Salad to Niçoise. And while egg slices are a great vegetarian protein source, it's easy to lose track of how many whole eggs you're eating. 50 cals -- .8 eggs 100 cals -- 1.67 eggs 200 cals -- 3.5 eggs
Peloponnese Pitted Kalamata Olives Heart healthy olives are a great salad choice, but the calories add up quickly. 50 cals -- 6 olives 100 cals -- 12 olives 200 cals -- 24 olives
Organic Avocado Avocados are heart-healthy dynamos -- delivering polyunsaturated fats and even, according to some research, helping to reduce the inflammation that contributes to heart disease risk. But if you're adding some avocado in your chopped salad, chances are you're getting more calories than you bargained for. 50 cals -- 1/6 of avocado 100 cals -- 1/3 avocado 200 cals -- 2/3 avocado
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Via Roma Sun Dried Tomato Halves What could be bad about tomatoes? In this concentrated form, the small, dried halves are surprisingly calorific. 50 cals -- 4 pieces 100 cals -- 8 pieces 200 cals -- 16 pieces
Pepperidge Farm Classic Ceasar Croutons Is there a more classic salad ingredient than a crouton? Unfortunately, the iconic topper is high in calories. 50 cals -- 10 pieces 100 cals -- 20 pieces 200 cals -- 40 pieces
Progresso Chickpeas Chickpeas are another high volume, low cal choice, with plenty of fiber and protein. 50 cals -- 1/4 cup 100 cals -- 1/2 cup 200 cals -- 1 cup
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Blue Cheese adds a lot of flavor without a lot of volume, and that means even a small amount will permeate your salad's profile. 50 cals -- 1/8 cup 100 cals -- 1/4 cup 200 cals -- 1/2 cup
Cubed Cheddar Cheese
Kraft Cheddar Cheese, Cubed If you're well-behaved enough to have a salad, you might as well cheer yourself up with some cheese, right? Given how little cheese is in each portion, that's a dangerous game to start. 50 calories -- .5 oz or about 4 small cubes 100 calories -- 1 oz or about 8 cubes 200 calories -- 2 oz or about 16 cubes
Stella Shredded Parmesan Cheese Shredded parmesan is another way to up the flavor and lower the volume. 50 cals -- 1/8 cup 100 cals -- 1/4 cup 200 cals -- 1/2 cup
Dole Mandarin Slices In Light Syrup Canned orange slices are popular at salad bars and with just 50 calories in a quarter cup, they contribute to an overall healthful calorie load. That said, watch out for the "light syrup" -- a source of added sugar. 50 cals -- 1/4 cup 100 cals -- 1/2 cup 200 cals -- 1 cup
Ocean Spray Original Craisins Sweet, tart dried cranberries -- sounds natural, but these salad toppers are often <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/277605-craisins-nutrition-information/">full of added sugar</a>. 50 cals -- 1/8 cups 100 cals -- 1/4 cups 200 cals -- 1/2 cups
Diamond Sliced Almonds Sliced almonds are an easy way to add some protein and heart-healthy fats to your salad, but less than three tablespoons already add up to 100 calories. 50 cals -- 1.25 Tbsp 100 cals -- 2.5 Tbsp 200 cals -- 5 Tbsp
Seneca Crispy Apple Chips Granny Smith Fresh apples are healthy, but these crispy apple chips pack a caloric punch, thanks to added sugar and oil. 50 cals -- 4 slices 100 cals -- 8 slices 200 cals -- 16 slices
Fresh Gourmet Garlic Ginger Wonton Strips These crispy little strips can add up quickly. 50 calories -- 3 Tbsp 100 calories -- 6 Tbsp 200 calories -- 12 Tbsp
Fresh Gourmet Tortilla Strips Lightly Salted Much like the wonton strips, these crispy carbs can seem harmless. But even a handful can top 100 calories. 50 cals -- 3 Tbsp 100 cals -- 6 Tbsp 200 cals -- 12 Tbsp
Heart-healthy walnuts are a great salad topper, thanks to their nutrient density -- but they can come with quite a few calories, as well. 50 cals -- 1 Tbsp 100 cals -- 2 Tbsp 200 cals -- 1/4 cup
Hormel Bacon Bits
No one is under the impression that these little bits are healthful -- they're full of sodium and saturated fat -- though they are not particularly calorific. Two tablespoons is just 50 calories. 50 cals -- 2 Tbsp 100 cals -- 4 Tbsp 200 cals -- 8 Tbsp
Kraft Italian Dressing Italian dressing can make even the bitterest green palatable to a veg-o-phobe. But the dressing comes full of added sugars, salts and quite a few calories. 50 cals -- 2 Tbsp 100 cals -- 4 Tbsp 200 cals -- 8 Tbsp
Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing
The typical salad serving size is two tablespoons, but many salads are dressed with far more. And it's hard to imagine how that translates into calories. 50 calories -- 1.5 Tbsp 100 calories -- 3 Tbsp 200 calories -- 6 Tbsp