Oil-Free Overview

When transitioning to a whole-food diet, many people might find it difficult to learn exactly how to cook meals without using any oil. If you are trying to go oil-free, whether it is to count your macros, a health specific reason, or simply just a preference, there are many ways that you can cook without oil (and order food at restaurants without oil). Here in this article, we will explain some of the ways to cook oil-free and some ways to order meals oil-free at restaurants. Let’s begin!

Why Going Oil-Free Is Recommended [Whole-Food Diet]

A whole food diet is typically defined as focusing on whole plant foods as close to their natural state as possible. Whole foods are nutrient-dense and mostly low in fat, but when turned into oil (for example, olives), they are stripped of their nutrients and what is left behind does not reflect the original plant food and instead contains lots of fat and calories. This means that most oils are nutrient-deficient and calorie-dense, resulting in the body quickly absorbing the oil and turning it into fat. Although high in calories, oil does not take up much space in our stomachs as whole nutrient-dense foods do, so consuming oil tends to increase the amount of calories we eat because we have a harder time recognizing when we are full.

Alternatives For Oil

Broth or Water. An easy substitute can be to swap your oil with broth or water when cooking. While cooking, you can continue to add a little more water or broth as you go to prevent sticking to the pan. Keep adding the water or broth as needed to cook and brown your food without steaming it. For this process, cooking with a non-stick pan would be best!

Roasting Oil-Free. Toss vegetables on top of parchment paper (make sure they are washed and dried) and roast them in the oven without oil! Keep an eye out on them, and let them sit in the oven for a few additional minutes to make sure they are perfectly roasted or browned to your liking.

Steaming Oil-Free. Steaming is a great way to cook your vegetables without using any oil at all. This is easiest to do with a steamer basket or steam pan. When you steam rather than boil your veggies, you actually retain more of the nutrients! Wait until all of your vegetables are steamed before adding any herbs, spices.

Baking: Fruit Purées. When baking, you can use any fruit purée as a healthy substitute for oil, butter, or shortening in a recipe. You can even use apple sauce, mashed up bananas, date paste, or even avocado! These substitutes will provide the moisture needed for baked goods.

Easy Tools For Oil-Free Cooking. As mentioned above, parchment paper is great to have handy since going oil-free means you will be eliminating the step of greasing the pan. Non-stick cookware is great as well, such as enamel-lined cast iron and stainless steel. An air fryer is also a great addition to an easy oil-free cooking session!

How To Order Oil-Free Food At Restaurants

When ordering at restaurants, try to ask for foods that are served grilled, raw, steamed, sautéed with broth/water, or roasted without oil. For baking, there are many oil substitutes that restaurants/bakeries may use such as coconut milk, mashed avocados, and fruit purées– ask if they happen to have any of these options available!


Oil-Free Appetizers. Although some appetizers are fried and contain oils, try to look for items that are served raw or steamed instead. You may also ask the chef for their opinion, and some possible options that could work for you!

Oil-Free Soups & Salads. Try to look for plant-based soups (such as gazpacho soup), that do not contain any added oils. Salads are also a great option for eating oil-free, just make sure to order it without the salad dressing, croutons, cheese, or anything else that may contain oil. For a dressing, you may ask for a side of vinegar!

Oil-Free Entrees. Often times, restaurants that serve dishes cooked with oil can prepare the meals without oil upon request. Request that your dish be prepared using water or possibly broth, and if the meal contains an item that can be steamed without oil, this could also be another option!

Oil-Free Desserts. Try to avoid anything made with a crust or a crumble because most of these pastries contain either oil, butter, or shortening. Opt for a dairy-free sorbet, fruit bowls, or anything no-bake that is oil-free.


More Resources

Resources From Dr. Brooke Stuart / Let Go & Grow®

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