Olive Oil Alternatives

Healthy Olive Oil Substitutes for Cooking and Eating

olive oil nutrition facts
Maximilian Stock Ltd. / Getty Images

Dieters who are trying to lose weight, healthy eaters and those following the Mediterranean Diet use olive oil as their go-to oil. Some even call it "liquid gold" because of its flavorful taste and abundance of health benefits. But what if you need an olive oil alternative? If you are looking for a lower fat or lower calorie substitute for olive oil use this guide to find the best choice for you.

Why Use an Olive Oil Alternative?

Before you choose an olive oil substitute, it's important to understand the oil's benefits.

Why? Because the some of the alternatives may be lower in fat and calories but they might also be limited in terms of 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 may decide to stick with the real deal.

A single serving of any oil, including olive oil, is one tablespoon. One tablespoon of olive oil provides 119 calories, all from fat. There are 1.9 grams of saturated fat, 1.4 grams of polyunsaturated fat and ten grams of monounsaturated fat in olive oil.

It is the high concentration of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat in olive oil that make it appealing to health advocates. These beneficial fats help boost heart health and promote a feeling of satiety or fullness, that is often helpful to dieters and others who are trying to eat the right number of calories each day.

By comparison, a single serving of vegetable shortening (like Crisco) provides 110 calories and 12 grams of total fat.

There are 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 6 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat in shortening. Butter provides 102 calories per serving. But all of the calories come primarily from saturated fat. Health experts recommend that Americans reduce their intake of saturated fat in favor of mono and polyunsaturated fats.

In addition to the health benefits of olive oil, many cooks and healthy eaters enjoy the product's versatility. You can cook with this oil but it also makes a nice dipping sauce for bread and can be used instead of butter or mayonnaise on bread when you're making a sandwich.

So does the miracle oil have any drawbacks? Yes, it does. Olive oil is very easy to over consume. Because the oil comes in a bottle, it is harder to exercise portion control when you pour it into a pan or dish. Unless you use a measuring spoon consistently, you are likely to use more than a single serving when you pour it on salads or drizzle it on vegetables.

In addition, olive oil can be expensive and it is harder to store than some of the most popular olive oil substitutes. If you don't store your oil correctly, the taste changes. Your pricey oil might go bad before you have a change to use the whole container.

Popular Olive Oil Substitutes

Before you start to look for an alternative oil, it's important to evaluate how you plan to use it.

It's not likely that you will find a single product that will do everything that olive oil does. In fact, you might choose to buy several different oil alternatives to meet your needs.

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

  • Chicken or vegetable stock. If you generally use olive oil to saute vegetables or meat, you can use chicken or vegetable stock instead. Some low cal cooks even use water. But you'll miss out on flavor, and the texture of your food will be slightly different when you saute in liquid instead of oil.
  • Olive oil flavored spray. There are many different oil sprays on the market that are easy to use for baking, frying and roasting. You'll find the sprays in the baking aisle of the grocery store. But even though these sprays are much 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. When is the last time you took out a stopwatch to time your spray? When you use more of these products, the calories and fat grams add up quickly.
  • Olive oil-flavored margarine or spreads. Many margarine companies make an olive oil flavored spread. Sometimes the spreads are made (partly) from the oil. So how does the nutrition compare? 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 considering choosing a different kind of oil to use in your cooking. But oil is fat. So 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 to using avocado, however, is that you can't use it for cooking.
  • Butter. Butter is the most convenient substitute for olive oil. Butter has a satisfying flavor and many dieters say that they can eat less of it because it curbs their cravings with a smaller portion size. But butter doesn't provide the other health benefits that olive oil provides.

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.  Some people cook everything in olive oil and end up consuming more than they need to achieve the important health benefits. There are a few different ways to cut back so you can continue to enjoy olive oil's taste and wellness benefits.

  • Get an olive oil brush. Smart cooks learn to paint 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, then make your own spray bottle with the real deal. Olive oil sprayers can be find 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. In fact, some healthy cooks use no oil at all when they cook with non-stick pans.
  • Pre-measured cups for dipping. If you use olive oil as a dipping sauce, use a small pre-measured cup. Fill it with enough oil for each dipper to consume a single serving or perhaps two. That way you won't mindlessly over consume calories.
  • Alternative cooking methods. If you're used to cooking your meat and veggies on the stove top with oil, consider other cooking methods that don't use oil. Roast your veggies in the oven or drizzle your poultry or seafood with lemon and herbs and broil.

Continue Reading