Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking Sprays & Butters

Part of our group topic on lowering cholesterol this week was an overview of the different types of dietary fats: the good, the bad, and the ugly!  Shirley mentioned that she loves to spritz I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray on her popcorn before seasoning it. She wanted to know if that's considered a healthy fat.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Margarine Spray (8 oz.)
  • Serving Size: 1.25 sprays 
  •  Servings Per Container: 904
  •  Calories Per Serving 0
  • Ingredients: Water, Liquid Soybean Oil, Salt, Sweet Cream Buttermilk, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid, (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Calcium Disodium EDTA) as Preservatives, Artificial Flavor, Colored with Beta Carotene, Vitamin A (Palmitate).
This buttery spray is primarily a mixture of water and oil held together by an emulsifier called lecithin. Xanthan gum gives it a thicker texture, while buttermilk and salt provide flavor. Color and preservatives are also added. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat, which falls under the healthy fat category. So, not an issue there. 

The problem lies in the serving size which is listed as 1.25 sprays. Seriously? Is a 1/4 second spray even possible? I am sure 100% of this product gets spritz on longer than that! 

Evidently, 25 sprays is 1 teaspoon, 2 grams of fat and 20 calories. That reminds me of one woman I worked with a long time ago who was going through 3 bottles of this spray each week by pouring it on vegetables. For some reason her weight loss had stopped even though she was eating more veggies. Yes. It adds calories.

Cooking spray use needs to be controlled, too. 

Pam Cooking Spray
  • Serving Size: 1/3 second
  • Calories: 6 calories
  • Fat: 0 grams (actually 0.266 grams*)
  • Ingredient list: Canola oil, soya lecithin, natural and artificial butter flavor, annatto and propellants isobutane and propane. 
A one second spray ends up at 7 calories and 0.8 grams of fat. I know several people who have shared with me that they use butter flavored Pam by continually spraying it on air-popped corn as it pops out of the popper. I wonder how many seconds they actually used?
All fats contain 9 calories per gram. A butter or cooking spray that has fat labeled on the ingredient list does have fat and calories in it.  Manufacturers like to play a game by altering serving sizes to make products look "better" on the label. *The labeling laws state that a product with less than 0.5 grams of fat can be labeled 0 grams fat. That means that I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray and Pam can be labeled "Fat Free." It's definitely misleading for most consumer serving sizes.

I do like cooking sprays, though. They allow you to lightly coat pans or skillets with a controlled amount of healthier fat instead of pouring too much on. You can get the same effect with oil spritzer bottles. My sister has one filled with olive oil for bit of rich flavor and one for canola oil for a unflavored spray. Great idea! 

Bottom Line: Be mindful when using butter and oil sprays: read the labels and control your trigger finger!


  1. All of those preservatives and artificial ingredients, and you are worried about the serving size? I would encourage you to look at natural fats, rather than fake, processed items. The forward movement in nutrition is toward real food, and these products do not fall in that category!

    1. While it's true that cooking and buttery sprays do contain preservatives and other additives, in this post, I was focusing on the manufacturers abusive use of the labeling laws. People who choose to use these sprays need to understand that these products do in fact contain fat and calories.

  2. I think it was a great observation, and it doesn't have anything to do with "natural" ... you can get similar sprays that are just olive oil, and you can always buy an "atomizer" that creates your own spray that is all natural -- so enough of the "Oh, it is not natural ..." Jeez, palm oil and coconut oil/milk are natural, and loaded with saturated fat, so "real food" does not equate to healthy food.

    Using cooking sprays, whether purchased or made at home, are an easy way to lighten up on your normal fat intake -- which is healthy!

  3. All things natural are not necessarily good choices for health. As a physicist recently pointed out to me, arsenic and cyanide natural, but are definitely not healthy!

    Be sure to check out my previous post on coconut oil (1/31/11.)


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