Olive Oil Or Butter On Your Bread?

Shiny Foil Packets Of Butter

It used to be only butter on bread – big slabs, small pots, or foil wrapped rectangles.  You can still find all of these – what would a diner be without those sometimes rock hard, sometimes soft and squishy, gold or silver foil wrapped butter packets?

Butter or Oil?

Butter has stiff competition from olive oil for bread sopping and dipping – as opposed to butter spreading.  Olive oil arrives green or golden, plain, herbed or spiced.  It can be just plopped down on your table, or poured with flourish from a dark tinted bottle.  Some restaurants offer a selection for dipping – and attempt to educate you about the variation in flavors depending upon the olives’ country of origin.

Hidden cameras in Italian restaurants showed that people who put olive oil on a piece of bread eat more fat and calories than if they use butter on their bread. But, the olive oil users end up eating fewer pieces of bread.

For the study, 341 restaurant goers were randomly given olive oil or blocks of butter with their bread. Following dinner, researchers calculated the amount of olive oil or butter and the amount of bread that was consumed.

How Much Butter, How Much Oil, How Much Bread?

Adult diners given olive oil for their bread used 26% more oil on each piece of bread compared to those who were given block butter, but they ended up eating 23% less bread in total.

The researchers found:

  • Olive oil users used 26% more olive oil on each slice of bread compared to block butter users (40 vs. 33 calories)
  • Olive oil users ate 23% less bread over the course of a meal than the people who used butter

The olive oil users had a heavier hand than the butter users – for individual slices of bread.  However, over the course of the meal when the total amount of bread and either oil or butter was accounted for, the olive oil users used more per slice, but, overall they ate less bread and oil over the course of the meal. They also took in 17% fewer bread calories:  264 calories (oil eaters) vs. 319 calories (butter eaters).

SocialDieter Tip:

Butter, oil, and bread all add significant calories to a meal. A tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, a tablespoon of butter has 102 calories, one pat of butter has around 36 calories.  Butter and oil are all fat; olive oil is loaded with heart healthy monounsaturated fat, butter is filled with heart unhealthy saturated fat.  Bread varies significantly in calories depending on the type of bread and the size of the piece.  Most white bread and French bread averages around 90 to 100 calories a slice. Most dinner rolls average 70 to 75 calories each. The bread and butter or olive oil pre-dinner (and maybe during dinner) ritual can be a real caloric bump for a meal, without much nutritional value.  So many of us chow down mindlessly on bread and butter or oil before a meal – because we’re hungry – or, because it’s there for easy nibbling.  Choose to eat it or don’t let the bread basket land on your table.  The choice is yours – just be mindful of the calories.

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