frying pan with eggsQ: What is the best way of disposing of used cooking oil from home?

  Avril Walley

A: Fried food occupies a spot close to my heart. Unfortunately, all that greasy goodness has an artery-clogging downside. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. In honor of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” way of life, I have to start by recommending that you build a list of go-to recipes that require less cooking oil in the first place.

Search food sites for “oven fried” versions of your favorites. I’m partial to oven-fried sweet potatoes, which are lightly coated in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake at about 400 until golden brown. This small change will significantly cut the amount of oil and reduce your fat grams by nearly half.

I also recommend heart-healthy options like olive oil, which is rich in polyphenols and monounsaturated fats. Olive oil also is minimally processed compared with corn oil, a cheaper option typically used by the fast food giants. A little bit of this flavorful oil can go a mighty long way. Keep in mind that cooking oil also can be reused multiple times — just strain it to remove bits of food.

As for discarding used cooking oil, start by storing it in a clearly labeled glass jar with a lid. Avoid clogging your drains by pouring used oil into your sink and repurpose that greasy stuff instead. Ehow.com has great tips for turning old oil into compost. It also makes great “glue” for pinecone bird feeders. Trails.com has an easy recipe that could ensure that your backyard is a pit stop for migrating birds this winter. If you have children, creating the feeders could become a fun classroom project.

— Morieka

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: Greg Hayter/Flickr; MNN homepage photo: muchomor/iStockphoto