Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Guide to Choosing Reduced Fat Butter Spreads

The sheer number of butters, margarines and spreads available these days can be quite overwhelming. While it’s fantastic having such a wide choice, it’s not always easy working out the difference between them.

Among the butter selections you’ll find salted butter, spreadable butter, reduced fat and lighter to name a few. Then there are the cholesterol fighting spreads, margarines with Omega 3, spreads made with olive oil and so on.

But they do have one common aspiration between them. To mimic the taste of butter. As butter lovers know, nothing can quite match the taste of real butter with nothing added or taken away.

So what's the best way to choose a butter which tastes like real butter but doesn't have such high levels of fat?

Is Reduced Fat the same as Low Fat?

With many of us actively trying to lower our fat intake, choosing a reduced fat butter or margarine is often one of the first steps we take. In an ideal world, we'd pick one which is lower in fat and calories while tasting just like butter.

Unfortunately, meeting all three of these criteria is a tall order. Reducing the calories and fat, generally means reducing the amount of butter and replacing it with alternative ingredients. This won't make them low fat though. For that to happen, it would need to contain 3g of fat or less per 100g of product. See guidelines to nutrition labels.

Pure butter typically contains a minimum of 80g of fat, of which 50g is saturated.  The average reduced fat butter spread has around 60g of fat per 100g and half the saturated fat of full fat butter.

Many spreads have been able to reduce the fat content to a great extent. For example, Flora Lighter than Light contains just 18g of fat per 100g which is a medium fat level. However, this is a vegetable oil spread, not a butter spread.

Reduced Fat Butters 

If you’re looking for a reduced fat butter spread with more of a real butter taste, then opt for those which contain butter as the first ingredient. They typically have a 60% fat content with butter accounting for around 40% of the ingredients. Vegetable oil makes up the other 20%.

Reduced fat butter spreads usually state that they contain a certain percentage less fat than the brand’s regular variety. This reduction is typically in the region of between 25-30%. Reducing the amount of fat also lowers the calorie count by around 200 calories per 100g of butter.

For example, Lurpak Spreadable Butter contains 724 calories per 100g, compared with 543 calories per 100g of Lurpak Spreadable Lighter.

If you’re after a bigger reduction in fat content than the reduced fat butter spreads provide, or if you are trying to lower your cholesterol for example, then there are certainly plenty of other options available. However, they won’t have butter as the main ingredient which may mean compromising on that real butter taste to some extent.  

A selection of Reduced Fat Butters 
Spread Name
Calories per 100g
Total Fat per 100g
Sat. Fat
per 100g
% Butter

Buttercurl Spreadable Lighter (Cooperative)
Lighter Buttersoft (Sainsbury's)
Butterpack Light Spreadable (Tesco)
Country Life British Spreadable Lighter
Reduced Fat Slightly Salted Spreadable (Marks & Spencer )
Lurpak Spreadable Lighter
Anchor Lighter Spreadable
Kerrygold Spreadable Lighter 
Yeo Valley Organic Lighter Spreadable
Kerrygold Lighter Unsalted Reduced Fat Irish Butter (Packet Butter)
* na = not available 

Note: One portion of butter is 10g or 2 teaspoons.

To work out how many calories in 2 teaspoons of butter, just count the first two numbers in the calorie total of the relevant butter. For example, Buttercurl from the Co-operative has 50 calories for 2 teaspoons.

And if you're interested, here are the ingredients for the reduced fat butters shown above. They all have butter as the first ingredient.

Spread Name
Buttercurl Spreadable Lighter The Co-operative
Butter (45%), Water, Rapeseed Oil (20%), Salt (0.9%), Emulsifier (Mono-and Diglycerides of fatty acids – Vegetable), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Acidity Regulator (Lactic Acid – Vegetable), Colour (Beta-carotene).
Lighter Buttersoft Sainsbury's
Butter (from Cows' Milk) (45%), Water, Rapeseed Oil (19%), Salt (0.9%), Emulsifier: Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids; Preservative: Potassium Sorbate; Lactic Acid, Natural Colour: Beta-Carotene.
Butterpack Light Spreadable Tesco
Ingredients: Butter (45%),Water ,Vegetable Oil , Salt (0.9%)
Country Life British Spreadable Lighter
Ingredients: Butter (38%), vegetable oil (25%), buttermilk, water, salt (1%)
Reduced Fat Slightly Salted Spreadable Marks & Spencer
Butter (42%), Water, vegetable oil (26%) (Rapeseed, Palm), lactic culture, salt
Lurpak Spreadable Lighter
Butter (47%), Water, Vegetable Oil (22%), Lactic Culture, Salt (0.9%)
Anchor Lighter Spreadable
Anchor Butter (40%), Vegetable Oil (27%), Water, Buttermilk, Salt, 60% Fat Blend (33% Milk Fat, 27% Vegetable Oil).
Kerrygold Spreadable Lighter 
Butter (43%), Water, Vegetable Oils (21%), Olive Oils (5%), Buttermilk, Salt (1.0%), Milk Proteins, Vitamin E, Colour (Carotenes)
Yeo Valley Organic Lighter Spreadable
Organic Butter (47%),Water, Organic Sunflower Oil (23%), Salt (1.3%), Buttermilk Powder
Kerrygold Lighter Unsalted Reduced Fat Irish Butter (Packet Butter)
Milkfat (60% min.), Skimmed Milk, Thickener (Pectin), Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, E471), Natural Flavouring, Acidity Regulator (E270), Colour (Beta-Carotene)

On a final note, if you like to cook with butter, most reduced fat butter spreads can be used in the same way as regular butter. This will help reduce the overall fat content as well as the calories in your food. They are also suitable for vegetarians.

© Diets and Calories 2012


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