Healthy Alternatives To Butter That Are Just As Good

By:    Published: November 19, 2012

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Many people are well aware of the health risks associated with a butter-rich diet. The stuff has been associated with clogged arteries, fat and an all-around bad diet. And butter certainly hasn’t helped itself maintain a healthy image – just one tablespoon contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat and 7 grams of saturated fat. It’s also high in cholesterol and, if salted, high in sodium. Because of this bad rap, those who are health-conscious are now searching for healthy alternatives to butter. Here are a few suggestions that might leave you pleasantly surprised.

Healthy Alternative To Butter

Although butter has long been a staple of baking as well as the quintessential topping for popcorn, healthier options have gained in popularity. Some of these substitutions have been used for years, but others are newer, more creative options that you may not have through of before:

  • Olive oil – Although olive oil contains fat, it’s filled with heart healthy fats and is low in saturated fats. Other olive oil replacement ideas include using it on grilled cheese sandwiches as well as dipping bread in it rather than eating bread and butter. For more suggestions on replacing butter used in cooking and baking, check out Healthy Cooking Oils To Use In The Kitchen.
  • Roasted garlic – Who doesn’t love a big piece of steaming garlic bread? But instead of slathering it with a butter and garlic mixture, just massage some roasted garlic onto the bread before baking it.
  • Butter sprinkles – Buttered popcorn is the classic movie-time snack, but it’s definitely not the healthiest. So instead of coating your popcorn in greasy movie theater butter, pour on some butter sprinkles, which are tiny granules of butter. They are very low in calories and fat; just be sure not to dump half of the bottle on your food.
  • Applesauce – This is another common butter substitute that is commonly used in baking and vegan recipes. Applesauce is very low in fat and calories and it adds more moisture to baked goods than butter does.
  • Avocado – You may not have thought to substitute butter for an avocado, but this works well in recipes that don’t call for the sweetness that applesauce provides. Avocados also add more moisture to foods than butter and can provide a softer, chewier texture in baked goods. Plus, avocados come with some added health benefits.
  • Greek yogurt – If you aren’t familiar with Greek yogurt, it’s thicker than regular yogurt and is packed with protein. If you choose to use it as a butter replacement, be sure to pick a low-fat or light version.

When it comes to healthy alternatives to butter, you’re only limited by your imagination. For instance, some people substitute butter for fruit puree in their baking recipes, which is also a good way to sneak some fruit into your family’s diet. Others choose to eat bread and hummus instead of bread and butter and others replace butter with their favorite nut butters. Although both of these options contain fat, they contain heart healthy fats, which are better for you.

What About Margarine And Butter Sprays?

Margarine is probably the most common alternative to butter, but it’s not always the healthiest substitute. Margarine is made of vegetable oils that go through the hydrogenation process, which means that the oils are heated with hydrogen in order to take on a solid form. These hydrogenated oils contain trans fats, which are one of the worst fats that you could eat. Some butter sprays also contain hydrogenated oils, making them another not-so-healthy alternative to butter.

But margarine and butter sprays aren’t all bad, either. They contain fewer calories than butter, and if you find a low-fat or light version, you can cut down on the trans fats they contain. For margarine, the key to choosing a healthier version lies in how solid the product is. The more solid the margarine is, the more hydrogenated oils it contains, so choose a margarine that has a soft texture.

For those sprays that-you-just-can’t-believe-are-butter, be sure to read the nutrition label before buying them and also be careful of how and when you use them. Because many of them claim to have zero calories and zero grams of fat, you may be tempted to pour half of the bottle over a bowl of popcorn. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows food manufacturers to label their foods as zero-calorie when they contain five calories or less, and the same goes for the amount of fat a product has. Most butter sprays do indeed provide some small amount of fat and calories per serving, so don’t be fooled into drowning your food in butter spray.

Butter’s Bottom Line

If you just can’t bring yourself to give up butter, try using unsalted whipped butter instead. It contains less fat and calories than butter but still satisfies that butter craving. Otherwise, dig into some of these healthier alternatives, or get creative and come up with your own tasty and healthy substitutions for butter.

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