Love it, Like it, Hate it – Butter and Alternatives for Holiday Cooking

The butter aisle can be almost as overwhelming as the selection of yogurts, with options ranging from plain old butter to margarine to olive oil and coconut oil blends, it’s hard to know what’s really a decent option, and what’s just good marketing.  

In today’s Get the Skinny, we’ve got top picks for butter & butter alternatives, plus how to decipher the nutrition facts on the labels.


  • A teaspoon or two of real butter is just fine!  But cooking with sticks of butter can quickly add up in terms of calories & animal-based saturated fat
  • Look for butter options that are low in animal-based saturated fats AND low in trans fat
  • Recommended daily upper limits:  <20 grams animal-based sat fat, as close to zero trans fat
  • Caution: Many ‘light’ spreads aren’t suitable for cooking or baking

Love it!

Lowest in animal-based saturated fat, with zero trans fats:

Brummel & Brown Yogurt Spread

Per tablespoon it’s 45 cals with 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams sat fat and 0 trans fat

1st ingredients:  Water, soybean oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, canola oil

Note: Brummel & Brown’s website says that they don’t recommend baking with it, though we’ve used it often in baking with good results.

Smart Balance Original

Per tablespoon: 80 cals – 9 fat – 2.5 sat fat – 0 trans fat

1st ingredients:  Soybean oil, palm fruit oil, canola oil, olive oil…

Real Butter – one teaspoon: just 33 cals & 2.5 grams sat fat, and by far the most natural ingredient list.


Like it!

Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks

Per tablespoon: 100 cals – 11 fat – 4 sat fat – 0 trans fat

1st ingredients:  Palm fruit oil, canola oil, soybean oil, flax oil, olive oil…

Coconut Oil or Coconut ‘Butter’ (e.g. Earth Balance Coconut Spread)

Per tablespoon: 100 cals – 11 fat – 5 sat fat – 0 trans fat

1st ingredients:  Coconut oil;  may be blended with oils such as palm fruit & canola oils

Real Butter (any brand)

Per tablespoon: 80 cals – 9 fat – 2.5 sat fat – 0 trans fat

1st ingredient:  Sweet cream

Hate it!

Land O’Lakes Stick Margarine

Per tablespoon:  100 cals – 11 fat – 2 sat fat – 2.5 trans fat

1st ingredients: liquid soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil

**one of the highest trans-fat containing margarines on the market**