There are a few obvious “no-nos” on the list of taboo food that is high in calories when you’re trying to get healthy: ice cream, soda, and potato chips, cream, sugar, and grease. And who could forget the granddaddy of bad health: butter.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t love butter, but many people can be convinced to forego this delicious dairy spread on their popcorn, pasta, and potatoes. But what about cooking with butter? Should the health-conscious cook and baker switch to margarine?
Margarine vs Butter
The hard truth about cooking with butter or cooking with margarine is that neither of them is particularly healthy. The Cleveland Clinic says that butter and margarine both have associated health risks. Butter has the advantage of being made from natural ingredients. It is simply cream that has been churned solid. It is also loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, and it is the obvious winner when it comes to baking. The high fat content yields a tender, flaky product. On the other hand, margarine has no cholesterol and saturated fat. But margarine is not a natural substance (it is hydrogen and vegetable oil) and many margarines are loaded with trans fat, which the USDA recommends avoiding completely. Margarine should basically never be used for baking unless specified, though it can be used for cooking. Just make sure to opt for “margarine spread” in a tub, which should have no trans fat.
Cooking With Butter: Better Substitutes
Baking without butter doesn’t have to be a losing battle. While cooking with margarine may not always be the answer, there are other ingredients to use instead. In some recipes, it is appropriate to substitue half of the butter with applesauce or pureed prunes. Yogurt and egg whites can also fill the shoes of butter in some recipes. Finally, there are some butter and margarine substitutes on the market that are meant to be used in baking. These buttery spreads may be plant-sterol or yogurt based. Check the label if you are unsure how a spread should be used.
Though it may be tricky, there are ways to avoid using butter in baking and cooking. Experiment and find the way that works for you!
- “Butter vs. Margarine: Which Is Better For You (And For Baking)?”, Huffington Post
- “Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention”, Cleveland Clinic
Better meals begin with better planning. We can help.