Healthy Olive Oil Substitutes for Cooking and Eating

Olive oil

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

People trying to lose weight, healthy eaters, and those following the Mediterranean Diet often use olive oil as their go-to oil. It's even been called "liquid gold" because of its flavorful taste and abundance of health benefits.

What if you need an olive oil alternative? If you are looking for a lower-fat or lower-calorie substitute for olive oil here is a guide to find the best choice for you.

Why Use an Alternative?

Before you choose a substitute, it's important to understand the benefits of using olive oil. It's true that alternatives might be lower in fat and calories but they may also offer limited nutritional value.

When you weigh the pros and cons of using olive oil and compare them to the benefits and drawbacks of other products. You might decide to stick with the real deal.

A single serving for any oil (including olive oil) is one tablespoon.

One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, all of which come from fat. One tablespoon of olive oil contains:

  • 1.4 grams of polyunsaturated fat
  • 1.9 grams of saturated fat
  • 10 grams of monounsaturated fat

The high concentration of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat in olive oil is what makes it appealing to health advocates. These beneficial fats help to boost heart health and promote a feeling of satiety (or fullness), which can be helpful for people trying to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

By comparison, a single serving of vegetable shortening (like Crisco) provides 113 calories and 12.8 grams of total fat. There are 3.2 grams of saturated fat, 3.6 grams of polyunsaturated fat, and 5.27 grams of monounsaturated fat in shortening.

Butter has 102 calories per serving. Most of the calories in butter come from saturated fat. Health experts recommend that Americans reduce their intake of saturated fat in favor of mono and polyunsaturated fats.

In addition to its health benefits, many cooks enjoy olive oil's versatility. Not only can you cook with the oil, but it also makes a nice dipping sauce for bread. You can also use it instead of butter or mayonnaise on the bread to make a sandwich.

The "liquid gold" oil does have drawbacks. For one, olive oil is very easy to over-consume. It comes in a bottle, which makes it is harder to exercise portion control as you are pouring it into a pan or dish.

Unless you are using a measuring spoon consistently, you might use more than a single serving when you pour olive oil on salads or drizzle it on vegetables.

Olive oil can be also expensive and is harder to store than some of the most popular olive oil substitutes. Additionally, the taste of the oil will change if you do not store it correctly. You run the risk of having your pricey olive oil go bad before you have a chance to use the whole container.

Popular Substitutes

Before you start looking for an alternative to olive oil, it's important to evaluate how you plan to use it. You are not likely to find a single product that will do everything that olive oil does. In fact, you might need to buy several oil alternatives to meet your needs.

Here are some of the most popular olive oil substitutes on the market.

  • Chicken or vegetable stock. If you generally use olive oil to sauté vegetables or meat, use chicken or vegetable stock instead. Some cooks even use water. When you sauté in liquid instead of oil, you'll miss out on flavor, and the texture of your food will be slightly different.
  • Olive oil flavored spray. There are many oil sprays on the market that are easy to use for baking, sautéing, and roasting. You'll find these sprays in the baking aisle of the grocery store. Even though sprays are lower in calories than oil, portion control is nearly impossible. A single serving of PAM Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray provides zero calories and zero grams of fat—but a single serving is a spray that lasts one-fifth of a second.
  • Olive oil-flavored margarine or spreads. Many margarine companies make an olive oil flavored spread. These spreads are sometimes made (partly) from the oil. A single serving (one tablespoon) of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!, 45% Vegetable Oil Spread with Olive Oil provides 60 calories and 6 grams of total fat. Of that, 2 grams are saturated fat, 2.5 grams are polyunsaturated fat, and 1.5 gram is monounsaturated fat.
  • Other oils. You might consider choosing a different kind of oil to use in your cooking, but oil is still fat. The fat and calorie count of other oils will be almost identical to that of olive oil. Flaxseed oil, for example, provides 120 calories and 13.6 grams of fat. Coconut oil provides 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat.
  • Avocado. If you use olive oil as a spread for your bread or sandwiches, you might consider using avocado instead. One tablespoon of avocado provides about 25 calories and about 2 grams of healthy fat. The downside of avocado is that you can't use it for cooking.
  • Butter. Butter is the most convenient substitute for olive oil. It has a satisfying flavor and you might eat less of it (some say it curbs cravings with a smaller portion size). However, butter doesn't provide the other health benefits you'd get from using olive oil.

Better Olive Oil Solutions

If you like the flavor and versatility of olive oil, the best solution might be to stick with it and simply use less. If you cook everything in olive oil you may end up consuming too much of it with adverse effects.

Here are a few ways you can cut back and still enjoy the taste and wellness benefits of olive oil.

  • Get an olive oil brush. Cooks learn to paint on olive oil instead of pouring it into a pan or onto meats or vegetables. You'll use far less with this nifty tool. Find a brush in any cooking store.
  • Refillable spray bottle. If you enjoy the convenience of the olive oil-flavored sprays, make your own spray bottle with the real deal. Olive oil sprayers can be found in gourmet shops and online. Just be sure to use a very short spray when you cook.
  • High quality non-stick pans. When you invest in good non-stick cook wear, you can use less oil. Some cooks use no oil at all when they cook with non-stick pans.
  • Pre-measured cups for dipping. Use a small pre-measured cup when using oil as a dipping sauce. Fill it with enough oil for each dipper to consume a single serving (or two).
  • Alternative cooking methods. If you're used to cooking meat and veggies on the stovetop with oil, consider trying cooking methods that don't use oil. Roast your veggies in the oven or drizzle your poultry or broil seafood with lemon and herbs.

A Word From Verywell

If you are trying to improve your diet or lose weight, you might be tempted to avoid fat. However, while it is higher in calories, fat is also an essential macronutrient and healthy fats help your body function properly.

Olive oil and most olive oil alternatives add flavor and a boost of nutrition to a well-balanced meal. Choose your oil wisely and enjoy in moderation.

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Article Sources
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