Have a hard time cutting down on calories? Consider using a low-calorie substitute for olive oil in pasta, salads and home-cooked meals. Fresh lemon juice, yogurt and even ketchup are all healthy choices. These simple swaps could save you hundreds of calories a day and make weight loss easier.
Tahini, hummus, fresh lemon juice and Greek yogurt are all healthy substitutes for olive oil. Use them to make a delicious salad dressing with fewer calories and fat.
What's Wrong With Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil has emerged as a superfood. Rich in polyphenols and monounsaturated fat, it supports cardiovascular health and protects against inflammation.
According to a March 2018 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, plant polyphenols modulate immune function and fight oxidative stress. These compounds may also lower your risk of cancer, coronary artery disease and neurodegenerative disorders due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
So, what's wrong with olive oil? After all, it's a powerhouse of nutrition. The downside is that it packs a lot of calories and fat. A single tablespoon has 120 calories, 13.5 grams of fat and no protein or fiber — if you consume 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day, that's an extra 360 calories.
One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic and other health organizations. If you add too much olive oil to your meals, the calories will add up and lead to weight gain. It's basic math.
Another problem is that many stores sell counterfeit olive oil. Therefore, it may lack nutritional value and contain harmful compounds. The only way to make sure you're getting the real thing is to buy olive oil directly from producers or certified distributors.
Olive Oil Replacement Options
Whether you want to cut calories or reduce your fat intake, there are plenty of alternatives to olive oil. It all comes down to what you're planning to cook. Fat-free Greek yogurt, for example, is a healthy substitute for olive oil in dressing recipes. One ounce has only 17 calories and 0.1 grams of fat plus 2.9 grams of protein.
Greek yogurt is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B12 and probiotics. When consumed regularly or in large amounts, this dairy product may slightly improve the gut flora in some individuals, according to a small study featured in the journal Nutrients in March 2017. On top of that, yogurt is significantly lower in fat and calories than olive oil.
Another low-calorie substitute for oil is apple cider vinegar (ACV). One tablespoon provides only 3 calories and no fat. This popular ingredient is unlikely to help you lose weight, but it may reduce your blood sugar levels and prevent bacteria growth in salads, reports the University of Chicago Medicine. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings, so take them with a grain of salt.
Speaking of salt, you can mix it with spices, herbs and fresh lemon or lime juice in homemade salad dressings. This will decrease the amount of oil needed and help you save calories effortlessly. Depending on the recipe, you may use pepper, black cumin seeds, oregano, basil, cilantro, garlic or onion powder, nutritional yeast and other flavorful herbs or spices. Better yet, add hummus or tahini to the mix.
Low-Fat Olive Oil Substitutes
Tahini, or sesame butter, does contain some fat (8 grams per tablespoon), but it also provides fiber, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Olive oil lacks these nutrients. Hummus, by comparison, has only 27 calories and 1.3 grams of fat per tablespoon. Combine it with lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard for a delicious salad dressing.
Planning to make cupcakes, pies or banana bread? Use applesauce instead of olive oil. With just 20 calories per ounce, applesauce is ideal for diet-friendly baked goods. It keeps the batter moist and helps bind together all the other ingredients. If your recipe calls for a half-cup of olive oil — or any other cooking oil — add a half-cup of applesauce instead.
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Olive Oil"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Food and Drug Administration: "First Application of Newly Developed FT-NIR Spectroscopic Methodology to Predict Authenticity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Retail Products in the USA"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Nonfat Greek Yogurt"
- Nutrients: "Effects of Dietary Yogurt on the Healthy Human Gastrointestinal (GI) Microbiome"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Apple Cider Vinegar"
- University of Chicago Medicine: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Tahini"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Homemade Hummus"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Applesauce"