Butter can be one of the most difficult things to avoid when you are trying to lose weight. Butter is found in almost everything and finding an acceptable butter substitute can sometimes seem impossible. Although there is no doubt that butter is hard to replace, it is possible to cut the amount that you consume each day drastically. If you are serious about cutting this fat-laden dairy product from your diet, however, you will have to put in some effort. Most purchased baked goods contain either butter or a hydrogenated shortening that is even worse for your body. By reading labels and cooking for yourself, you may be able to cut butter from your life for good.
When Butter Is Better
There is no doubt that butter is not the healthiest substance in the world. Although many people consider it to be made from solid fat, however, this is not entirely true. In fact, butter is a combination of fat, milk solids and water. The average American butter contains 81% fat, while the average European butter contains 85% fat. Although the fat content is less than that of many oils, however, it is the type of fat that can be so damaging to your health. Butter contains a high amount of saturated fat, which stays solid at room temperature and is known for clogging arteries. That said, many of the oils used in packaged, processed foods are hydrogenated, and also contain a high percentage of saturated fat. Butter is a natural substance and is a good source of vitamin A. Although it should always be eaten in moderation, butter is often healthier than the hydrogenated oils, such as palm oil, found in processed foods.
Day to Day Substitutions
Most people trying to reduce the amount of butter they consume hit a wall when they try to replace all of the butter at once. Butter serves different purposes, depending on how it is used. Different butter applications often require different butter substitutes. One of the easiest ways to replace butter in your everyday life is to use a product designed specifically for the purpose. Heart-healthy and vegan margarines are usually made from unsaturated vegetable oil and often contain less fat and more water than butter. The high water content, however, can cause problems if you are melting the margarine. Melted margarine can turn toast soggy and leave vegetables sitting in a pool of watery oil. Used strictly as a solid spread, however, margarine can make an excellent substitute.
One of the great things about looking for butter substitutes is that it can often lead to surprising new taste combinations. By thinking out of the box, you may find replacements that you like more than boring old butter. Try drizzling a bit of tahini and lemon juice on your greens for a Mediterranean treat that offers all the creaminess of butter, with more flavor and nutrients. Spreading cream cheese on your toast can cut the fat in half. Roasting potatoes with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt makes a surprisingly good alternative to a butter-drenched baked potato. Even mashed avocado, which is high in a healthy type of fat, can be used to liven up a sandwich, or add creaminess to a dish. Avocado, by the way, is also an excellent alternative for mayonnaise in many applications.
All in the Chemistry
Finding a butter substitute for baking can be considerably more difficult than finding something new to put on your toast. Baking is all about chemistry and the fat found in butter is often essential to giving your cakes, cookies and pastries the right consistency. In most cases, you will need to substitute butter with another type of fat. They key is to find a fat that is less saturated and more nutritionally vibrant than butter. In many cases, this can be accomplished by using a healthier butter substitute oil, such as extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil has a strong taste, which works well in many savory applications. Corn bread, for example, is excellent with olive oil. There are also a number of olive oil cakes that use the oil’s unique flavor in a sweet context. Olive oil cake is especially good with fresh fruit, such as peaches or berries, mixed into the batter.
Ground nuts and nut butters can be an excellent butter substitute for cookies. Although they are often high in fat, they contain more flavor, protein and vitamins than even the highest-quality butter. Choosing lower fat nuts, such as almonds, or seeds, such as sunflower seeds, is another way to cut the calories while giving your cookies the right consistency. Cookies made with many conventional butter substitutes tend to lose their chewy or crispy consistency and become thick and cakey. Cookies made with ground nuts, however, are as chewy as ever.
Finally, there are a number of very low fat alternatives that can be used in some types of baking. Apple sauce is an excellent butter substitute for shortening in cake, muffin and brownie recipes. Depending on the recipe, you may be able to replace as much as two thirds of the butter with apple sauce. Mashed beans can also be used to replace the butter in some recipes. Black bean brownies are famous for being every bit as delicious as their butter laden counterparts. No matter what butter substitute you use, however, you can rest assured that being butter-free does not have to mean sacrificing creaminess, consistency or flavor.