Love it, Like it, Hate it: Butters and Butter Alternatives

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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 healthful option, and what’s just good marketing.  In today’s Get the Skinny, we’ve got top picks for butter & butter alternatives, plus what to look for on labels.


  • A teaspoon or two of real butter is just fine!  But cooking with sticks of butter can quickly add in unwanted calories.
  • Tub spreads typically melt and spread better than sticks; experiment to find what you like best
  • Experiment with butter replacers like avocado & Greek yogurt to boost nutritional value





Coconut Oil

  • Per tablespoon: 120 calories, 14 grams fat, 12 grams plant-based saturated fat, 0 sodium
  • Texture like butter at room temperature; can use cup-for-cup in place of butter
  • Try Nutiva’s Organic Coconut Oil with Butter Flavor: Organic, vegan and non-GMO, and a bargain ($7.98 for a 29-ounce jar), available at Walmart.


  • Per tablespoon: 22 calories, 2 grams fat, 0.5 grams plant-based saturated fat, 1 mg sodium
  • Use mashed avocado in place of half the amount of butter called for in a recipe
  • Save 78 calories & 6 grams saturated fat per tablespoon of butter swapped out


Greek yogurt

  • Per tablespoon: 11 calories, 0.3 grams fat, 0.2 grams saturated fat, 4.5 grams sodium
  • Use plain, low-fat Greek yogurt in place of half the amount of butter called for in a recipe
  • Save 89 calories & 7 grams saturated fat per tablespoon of butter swapped out





Real Butter - Grass-Fed, Unsalted - e.g. Kerrygold or Vital Farms

  • Per teaspoon: 33 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 2.3 grams saturated fat, 0 - 30 mg sodium
  • Per tablespoon: 100 calories, 11 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 0 - 90 mg sodium
  • Ingredients: Cream/Sweet Cream


Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spreads & Sticks + Smart Balance Original Spread

  • Per tablespoon: 90 calories, 10 grams fat, 2.5 grams plant-based saturated fat, 90 mg sodium
  • Ingredients include non-GMO vegetable oil blend (canola, palm, soybean oil), pea protein, salt...


Brummel & Brown Yogurt Spread

  • Per tablespoon: 45 calories, 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 90 mg sodium
  • Ingredients include water, soybean oil, yogurt, palm oil, modified tapioca starch, potassium sorbate…
  • Half the calories of regular butter




Smart Squeeze

  • Per tablespoon: 5 calories, 0 fat, 0 saturated fat, 100 mg sodium
  • Ingredients include water, modified food starch, salt, sugar, beta carotene for color, TBHQ
  • The preservative TBHQ is linked to an increased incidence of tumors in rats.


The following brands removed trans fat from their product, but they’re still anything but natural


Bluebonnet Light Stick Margarine

  • Per tablespoon: 50 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 gram sat fat, 0 trans fat, 80 mg sodium
  • Ingredients include: water, vegetable oil, maltodextrin, preservatives potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and calcium disodium EDTA, plus natural & artificial flavor…
  • Waxy texture; doesn’t melt well at all


Parkay Stick Margarine

  • Per tablespoon: 80 calories, 9 grams fat, 1.5 grams sat fat, 0 trans fat, 130 mg sodium
  • Ingredients include: vegetable oil blend, preservatives potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, natural & artificial flavor…
  • Waxy texture; doesn’t melt well at all





Want more from Molly?  Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in|The Times-Picayune!   And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram:  @MollyKimballRD



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