Better Butter Alternatives by Toby Amidor in Healthy Tips, March 25, 2009
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Are you swapping butter with margarine as a “healthier” alternative? Some butter substitutes may actually clog your arteries just as much — if not more — than good old butter. Learn more about the butter-versus-margarine debate and butter alternatives to try.
The Facts About Butter
Butter’s bad rap comes from the artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol it contains. One tablespoon of stick butter contains 102 calories; 64% of the calories are from fat. If you can’t give up butter, try switching to an unsalted whipped butter — 1 tablespoon has 67 calories. Even better, go for a pat of butter — that’s the equivalent of 1 teaspoon.
Butter vs. Margarine
When comparing to butter, margarine isn’t always better. During manufacturing, margarine undergoes hydrogenation, a process in which heat and hydrogen transform liquid oil into a solid form. Although it contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, the hydrogenated oil does have trans fat. When I need a little butter, I turn to traditional butter rather than margarines.
If you’re sticking with margarine, you can find lighter or sometimes even non-fat tub margarines — Smart Balance Light and Promise Light both have only 45 calories per tablespoon and no trans fat. You can also look for butter sprays for cooking eggs or veggies. Check out this handy chart to find some healthier butter alternatives.
When to Replace Butter
When I counsel obese children and adults, one change I suggest is to cut out the butter. The results are amazing. Instead of butter on bread, use a teaspoon of jam, light margarine (I usually recommend Smart Balance Light) or nut butter.
When cooking scrambled eggs or veggies, use butter spray and coat the pan. Bake sliced, new potatoes with a touch of butter spray. You can even make mashed potatoes without butter — in this recipe, Ellie Krieger uses low-sodium chicken broth to keep in the moisture (brilliant!).
The Bottom Line:
Think outside the stick! Butter isn’t always the answer — there’s a world of alternatives (even chicken broth) that you can try. Just experiment. Keep an eye out for good, safer butter alternatives at your supermarket, too.