Thursday, July 26, 2007

Butter Substitutes?

It can be problematic to find a balance between wholesome, real ingredients and less-than-ideal ingredients that serve to help get the weight off now. The butter substitutes like Parkay spray are a good example of that compromise.

Parkay Spray claims to taste like butter (though it is more like margarine to my taste), no cholesterol, no trans fat, in fact no fat at all --- or so claims the product label.

But, what's in it? Water, Soybean Oil, Buttermilk, Salt, Soy Lecithin And Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids (Emulsifiers), Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate And Sodium Benzoate (To Preserve Freshness), Lactic Acid (Acidulant), Artificial Flavor, Colored With Beta Carotene (Source Of Vitamin A), Vitamin A Palmitate.

Well, despite the scary names, most of those ingredients are kinda/sorta OK. But, how can it really be zero calories and zero fat with oil and buttermilk in there?

Once again, we run afoul of labeling loopholes. Yes, in the serving size listed on the package ( 1 - 5 sprays) the product is legally zero. But, it is not actually zero in any quantity.

In fact, Parkay Spray has .8 calories in 1 spray and 4 calories in 5 sprays. Fat content is .085 grams in 1 spray, .4 grams in 5 sprays. That means that in the entire bottle there are 832 total calories from 93 grams of fat.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
is similar.

So, a few sprays for cooking gives a good calorie savings over larger amounts of butter or oil, and is probably worth the 'real food' compromise during the weight loss phase. Don't be fooled into thinking it is really 'free', though!


Gemma said...


I am glad you pointed out that there is a trade off sometimes between what we have to do to lose weight and what might be healthier long term choices. I don't like to use things with a lot of chemicals/faux ingredients in them, but while I am trying to lose, I do need some help. I hate the HFCS that is in the Wishbone Spritzers, for example. But once I reach goal and can afford a few more calories, I can go back to making my own salad dressings again. It is all a matter of balance.

CraigO said...

Smart Balance spray is similar, I don;t know if it is any better, but I like the flavor once in a while. Mostly I use olive oil crisco spray for cooking. I figure if I am getting a few calories from oil, I would rather get a "good" fat like in olive oil.

Becky said...

Gemma - I agree, it's a tough call.
I, too, have a really hard time accepting the high fructose corn syrup in the Wishbone Spritzer dressings. In fact, I wonder if they are a savings at all, when you consider how many carbs are in just a few spritzes of some of the flavors. Replacing oil with HFCS doesn't seem good to me. I am not at all convinced those are a bargain, really --- I wonder if the 'secret' to their low counts is not just portion control from the spray delivery.

I am planning an experiment to use my normal dressings in a spray bottle, counting how many pumps per bottle, to see if that works out as well. I think it might be close enough.

In any case, I am more hesitant about the spritzers. I think I'd rather spend the calories, personally. At least olive oil, sesame oil, etc., are good for us in moderation.

I'll test it out and post my results when I get a chance.

Becky said...

Craig - Once again, with the cooking sprays, I think the whole key is in the portion reduction from the spray delivery. I wonder if just putting olive oil in a spray bottle would yield the same results. What do you think?

CraigO said...

Yes, I figued I was getting nearly the same results from the crisco olive oil spray as I would get from putting EVOO into a spray bottle. We actually have an olive oil spray bottle that you pump to pressurize. It works good if you don't mind the pumping. As far as the dressings go, I don't like the HFCS either. I just got a spray bottle and some distilled water. I am going to mix the water with some low carb ranch dressing and strain through a cheesecloth into my spray bottle. I am a ranch fan and they don't make a Ranch spritzer. I bet my olive oil sprayer would also work for a homemade oil and vinegar dressing now than I think of it.

Becky said...

Hi,Craig! I tried the same thing with Italian dressing, but it didn't work the first time because I didn't strain it well enough, and my spritzer clogged. I ended up just using balsamic vinegar and EVOO in a new little spritz bottle, then grinding on some McCormicks Italian Seasoning grinder. It was actually quite good that way!

Let me know how it works with the Ranch --- that would be good, too!