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Recipes from popular food blogs may be high in saturated fat, sodium

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Though home cooked foods are often heralded as healthier alternatives to restaurant meals, a new study warns that some recipes from popular food blogs contain high levels of saturated fat or sodium.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers analyzed the nutritional content of entrée recipes randomly selected from six popular general interest food blogs. The analyzed blogs included:

Busy at Home
Chocolate and Zucchini
Pinch My Salt
Pioneer Woman
Simply Recipes
Smitten Kitchen

Study author Lisa Brown, an assistant professor of nutrition at Simmons College in Boston, said a group of her students became interested in analyzing blog recipes after noticing that many of their friends were whipping up some not-so-healthy meals based on formulas they had found on these sites.

“I’m a professor working with a team of students who did this as a master’s thesis, and they felt like their friends were using food blogs often. And a lot of the recipes they were talking about using were not sounding as good as they would like them to be,” Brown told FoxNews.com.

The researchers randomly selected a total of 96 recipes from the websites they were analyzing and calculated their nutritional content using Food Processor Nutrition and Fitness software. They compared their results to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Overall, the researchers discovered that vegetarian recipes and fish-based recipes were typically safe choices – low in calories, saturated fat and sodium. However, they also revealed that many of the non-vegetarian entrees posted on the sites weren’t quite so guilt-free.

“We felt the nutritional comparisons to restaurant food were favorable in terms of calorie content and weren’t too bad in terms of calories, but fat and sodium weren’t where we would like them to be,” Brown said.  

In particular, the researchers discovered that many chicken-based recipes seemed to be especially high in sodium and saturated fat.

“We went back to find out why that was happening, and as far as we could tell, (in) those poultry recipes they used cream sauces (and) a lot of cheese,” Brown told FoxNews.com. “That’s what was adding a lot of the fat, in addition to the fact that sometimes they were also using dark meat.”

However, Brown said there’s no need for home chefs to delete their favorite blogs from their bookmarks bar.

“Easy modifications could be made to change the fat and sodium content,” Brown said.

Brown suggests substituting butter for plain canola oil, making cream sauces with whole milk or half-and-half instead of cream, and relying on spices other than salt to season food. Additionally, choosing low-fat cheeses, opting for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned, and choosing white mean over dark, could all help lower fat and sodium levels in recipes.  

“Our feeling in general was people needed to be aware that just because this was homemade food, it could be high in saturated fat (and) high in sodium,” Brown said.

Clotilde Dusoulier, the blogger behind Chocolate and Zucchini, noted that people can still achieve a good nutritional balance, even while occasionally indulging. 

"My viewpoint on nutrition is that a person's nutritional balance doesn't result from a single main dish. It has to be looked at over the course of several days or, nutritionists say, a full week," Dusoulier told FoxNews.com in an e-mail."And while I do feature special-occasion dishes, you'll notice that the overall selection of recipes I feature leans heavily on fresh produce and generally healthful dishes, so I feel I do set a good example in terms of nutritional balance."

 

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